My media diet

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I’ve been on a media diet for the last week. I’ve been trying to cut back on all superfluous reading, web surfing and TV watching. And I can’t say I’ve been terribly successful.

The reason I’ve been doing is this is that I’ve been working through “The Artist’s Way – A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity” by Julia Cameron. If you’re not familiar with the book (and it feels like I’m the last person I know to pick it up), it consists of a number of exercises and practices to help find/recover your inner artist. It’s been an interesting experience so far. The main exercise for the fourth week is reading deprivation. The author states we should completely and totally abstain from reading as way letting our creative urges fill the void that we often fill with reading. OK, interesting point. But, not reading my email at work is simply not an option. That is how I’ve trained my clients to interact with me, and if I were suddenly tell them to phone me, their heads would explode. So, in the spirit of the exercise, I opted to go on a media diet instead of a reading fast. The results have been, er, interesting.

Day One: I worked from home, and I must say it was an incredibly productive day. In lieu of aimless web surfing between putting out fires, I actually buckled down and started on some work projects that I had been procrastinating on. Once I logged off from work, however, I was at a complete loss. What was I to do? I couldn’t catch up some of my light web surfing, nor could I pick up a book, nor turn on the TV. Ack! So, I just sat and listened to some music and quite literally twiddled my fingers. Finally I got up and started cleaning my floors.

Since this is a media diet and not all out deprivation, I decided to limit my television watching to only those programs that I would record, were I not home. No mindless channel surfing, or sitting down on the couch and mindlessly picking up the remote. That night I only watched Project Runway. I was so proud of myself.

Day 2: Back in the office and my diet starts to slip in terms of the internet. My intent was to only use the internet for work purposes, or the rare searches for basic information that is pertinent to the Artist’s Way program (what time does the museum open, who is doing a reading at a local bookstore, you know, that kind of stuff). No blog reading, no news, no light diversions. But on this, my mere second day on my media diet, I already started to cheat.

I have a very bad habit of Googling everything. If you are talking to me on the phone when I’m front of a computer and mention something, chances are I’ll start Googling it. It’s a bad habit, I know. A thought goes through my head, and bam! I’m Googling it. So, in lieu of being mindful and present, I slipped in a few Google searches during the day. Oh well, I’ll be better tomorrow.

Day 3: My mind is starting to gurgle and with it being Friday, usually the slowest day at work, there is little to distract it. This media diet has left me weak and I don’t have the energy to dive into those long forgotten projects that I dove into on Day 1. I give into my Googling addiction and some other light surfing in the name of artistic inspiration. Yeah, that’s it. Artistic inspiration.

Day 4: This was an easy one, I was out and about all day and evening at the County Fair with the boyfriend. Nothin’ but farm animals and bad Elvis impersonators. Ahh, this is what life was life before cable TV and internet. Farm animals and freaks. Good times.

Day 5: I felt like a damn fool waiting at my usual breakfast joint without a newspaper in front of me. “Hey, LB, are all the newspapers taken?” the waitress who knows me too well asks. “No, I’m good” I respond sheepishly as I stare a bit too thoughtfully at the flowers on the table.

That night, I watched a little appointment TV (60 Minutes, The Simpsons, Family Guy) plus a few of its friends. Hey, it’s Sunday night. I use TV to numb the pain of going back to work the next day. Cut me some frickin’ slack, will ya?

Day 6: Apparently I have given myself a pass when it comes to the diet at work. While I’m still not reading my blogs, nor keeping up with the news, everything else is game on. At home, I start to sneak in a few non-essential emails, but overall I’m pretty good. At home, appointment TV once again brings along a friend or two. I mean, come on, you gotta wash down Intervention with an hour or so of psychic teenagers to clear the palate.

Day 7: I could look at this two ways. First would be that I lost all will power and gave in to my craven time-killing urges. Or more constructively, I was starting to transition back to my normal patterns. I think I’ll go with the latter, thank you.

So, what did I learn in my media diet week? Yes, I do kill a lot of time on the internet and in front of TV. But, I do not consider reading to be killing time. I missed it the most. Yet, I didn’t cheat at all when it came to print media which is probably because I have a healthy relationship with it, unlike TV and the internet. And yes, I use them both to just numb out sometimes. And that’s not good.

However, this week wasn’t particularly conducive to my creativity. I have a folder full of blog drafts, which may get finished someday. I fixed a bracelet. And I . . . uh . . . no, that’s pretty much it. I didn’t free up my time to the extent that where I could suddenly start doing all those things I wanted to do but simply didn’t have time. Working full time, plus a part time relationship plus all that basic shit I need to do to feed myself and my critters plus keep the house from devolving into a cat box is what keeps me from more creative endeavors, not an hour or two of superfluous TV or internet surfing.

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12 responses »

  1. Several of my mommy friends at Mother Talkers have taken up The Artists Way too! They are just on Week1. Sounds like week 4 will be interesting for them since this is a blogging mama’s group!!

    I don’t know that I could do it. Maybe though since I do have my son and all his activities + a decent sized garden I could tend to as well as tons of project house improvements. And I must admit that when I do tackle those for an entire day that it does clear my mind quite well.

  2. I hated that book, for so many reasons, one of which is that I think it is highly counterintuitive and possibly damaging to people who are creatively stuck and who had very unhappy childhoods. It’s one of those books that should come with a disclaimer about having therapy before trying it, if childhood issues are outside the norm.

  3. Yes, I’m aware that I’ve been using the internet to put off writing my book for the last year or so. Which is bad, really, as it’s a true life story that needs to be told. However, it’s only on reading your blog that I realise just how complete my internet addiction has become. I stopped watching TV a year and a half ago and it’s not occurred to me until now that the internet’s been operating as my substitute for that. I’m a professional writer, so I guess this is not unnatural for someone like me. However, perhaps the time I spend writing here and elsewhere would be better spent writing the book. So, really, I’m just procrastinating. Having said that, I do work as a copywriter in the advertising industry, and I’m required to be creative at an extremely high level, on call and to deadline. This is hard and relentless (some might even say cruel). So I guess I use the internet as a kind of creative anaesthetic.

  4. When I pick up writing books, I take what I can from it but if something sounds like it’s not going to apply to me or I am not going to gain anything from it, I very often just don’t do it. Sometimes I will do the exercise and modify it to my needs, likes, etc. That’s what I did with Cameron’s books. She has some great ideas but they don’t all apply to me. They won’t all apply to other writers, either.

    I’m glad you tried it. I don’t know that I would have. I think, for me, reading and TV/DVDs are often inspiring. When I read I always have paper and pen nearby so that I can jot down words and phrases that interest or call out to me. So it’s not a waste. I get good ideas that way.

  5. Christina – I wish your friends well. My first impulse when my usual diversions were taken away was household chores rather than some creative project. It didn’t have the effect for me of weeding away all the extraneous thoughts so that beautiful creative thoughts could flourish. But, then again, I wasn’t too strict with myself.

    David – I hear ya. I rather cringed at the first chapter where all the exercises seemed to be about assigning blame for our creative stuckness, and excavating a lot of old anger. She seems to be treading into territory that is best done with aid of a therapist.

    There is a lot in the book I can’t relate to at all – even though she has caveats about all the god talk, my eyes still glaze over whenever she goes off in that direction.

    Corina – I’m finding I’m getting the most out of the morning pages and resisting my own inertia to take myself out on the Artist’s Date. But, yeah, a lot of the exercises I feel are either rather silly or just don’t address my issues at all.

    Ron – Oh my, am I partially responsible for you not finishing your book? While you would be sorely missed, if you were to drop off for a while to work on your book, I’d be most happy – particularly if I can get one of the first autographed copies.

  6. Thanks for that, LB. It would be convenient in the extreme for me to be able to blame your blog, but I’m afraid if your blog wasn’t serving as the vehicle for my procrastination, something else would be. Anyway, I have finally figured out the structure of the story, so work on the book will begin soon. It may take a while, but you’ll receive your signed copy. I promise.

  7. Oh. My. God.

    I loathe that book with a passion.

    I love to read and I am creative every – single – day. Its my job to make pictures. I love to create and I do it well, and reading in no way impinges on that ability. If anything, it enhances it: both by giving me access to the creative expression of others and by providing a soothing way for my mind to wind down (Nobody’s brain can be creative 24 hours a day and stay sane).

    As long as one is selective in what one reads, I fail to see what the problem is.

  8. Iys amazing how we as a society have become so connected to the “digital life.” Email, internet, paperless bills. You can even order you groceries online and have them delivered. I myself love to surf the net for various bits of random nothingness. I love it. I don’t think I could go a whole week, and certainly not in the name of Creativity.

    Hats off to you for making a good attempt at it. As for myself, I’m not sure I could make it a day.

  9. krEEE8 tv tea

    x changing an illusory shelf wit ill usury udders ~ and itz cum er shell free! oooo that could be kinda messy tho

  10. i had a really good laugh at this post.

    i’m glad i’m not the only one guilty of obsessive compulsive googling.

    especially late at night. yeah. better go to bed before it’s too late.

  11. I did this a little bit recently. An idea for a story I had became persistent — almost in rebellion against the 8-5 deskwork that eats my brain. So in working on that, (including pestering old friends who lived through the events the story is based on w/long-distane phone calls; much fun that, too) I gave up the blogosphere for a bit.

    There just wasnt’ time, really, for 1) work, 2) writing, 3) blogging. Of the 3 it would be easiest to give up work, but the bills don’t pay themselves.

    But that wasn’t media deprivation to create some sort of void, thus priming a creative pump. Still, I can see how that might work.

    Still for me, I would have to immerse myself in the writing, go full tilt until done, then seek out distraction. Come up for air. And then I can go back to the text and usually have a whole new take — things that seemed marginal sometimes seem better (this just happened re a scene where 2 coworkers, in assisting each other, begin an insulting banter I liked better than when I wrote it) or worse — I look at something and wonder, what the hell was I thinking?

    Sorry for prattling on. Last thought — Lillian Hellman once described Dashiell Hammett’s creative process. He secluded himself and went full bore for 3 weeks (she was astounded by his process, and the exhaustion). I can imagine doing that in a northern winter. Just the darkness. Snow. A good desk, and the words.

  12. “I can go back to the text and usually have a whole new take — things that seemed marginal sometimes seem better . . . or worse — I look at something and wonder, what the hell was I thinking?”

    boy that pretty much nails it! same thing with paint.

    something about ‘trying’ to be creative is a bit tricky. Seams more like just trying to get in the way of it every once in a while till it runs ya over.

    seams like die stractions is an essential part of the process too tho ~ like the opposite pole of dead lines?

    eye m guessin that the media black out werx on multiple levels anywayz whatever doesnt kill you makes you wonder right?

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