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.