Every morning when I can, I start my day by writing 3 pages of long-hand thoughts, worries, musings and grocery lists. It’s a practice I adopted in 2002 when I worked my way through Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s WayThe Artist Way.
Plenty of people own this book, but I haven’t met too many who actually saw their way through the entire 12 week program. I did, and it transformed my internal world. Still a fan girl, still doing the basic daily practice and it has become something of a morning meditation for me. Write all down, entertain all those stray thoughts about success, failure, what ifs, then put it ceremonially into the shredder and go make some art.
Four weeks ago, I started to repeat the course from the beginning, an effort to refocus on its basic principles. The fourth week is for many the hardest of all, when the book calls for a week without reading. No newspapers, magazines, books or other literary distractions. Reading is hard to criticize. It’s a socially worthy activity. But words, other people’s words, are seductive. Their momentary pleasures eat up a lot of time. Time that could go into making my own art.
When Cameron wrote the book, there was no such thing as Facebook or Twitter, but I’m sure if she updated it, the reading definition would be expanded to include them. The lure of the streaming newsfeed is designed to keep us glued to the screen. Cameron predicts that without these words to fill a five or ten minute break, we will get restless, uncomfortable, and eventually go do some stuff.
I actually looked forward to the reading deprivation exercise this time around, and I’m still amazed that all I got done last week, including:
* taught 3 times for Lifelong Learning
* mostly finished sorting my basement back into shape after emptying it out for a repair job
* put together a DIY kit for a new photography project that’s been sitting on a shelf for two weeks
* lost two pounds by actually exercising
* practiced archery with my new bow
* dropped off a load of donations
* designed, bought fabric and cut out the pieces for a costume for a new project
* attended a Photowalk
* polished up a new webpage design and started skinning it onto a new WordPress install
and all my regular stuff.
Reading deprivation can reveal the deception in “I don’t have time to” make my art, write my novel, live my dream. It’s a lot safer to lament the work that never gets started than to pick up the brush, pen, camera. I forgot most of the pithy thoughts I didn’t tweet last week, but one stuck with me: my life is no more than the sum of my choices. Last week was an important exercise in choosing wisely.
Have you done the Artist Way course? Started but gave up? Is there an interest for a local meet-up group to do the work together?