Friday, April 24, 2009

Reading Deprivation Week...

I haven't written much about the Artists Way group set up via this blog, but it's been such a privilege to be part of it. And to have hands to hold during some of the exercises. And to be able to say, phew, someone else feels that too.

BUT... this week has been hard. This is the famous week in The Arists Way where there is NO READING.

And this means we can't go on the blog to see how other people are doing. If it feels like anything, it's like being part of a mini, and thankfully less public, Hells Kitchen. Who will survive? Who will decide that actually they want to 'hold' other peoples words more than carrying on, that their first prize is out of the kitchen? (Not that I was watching, of course, but oh how I love Bruce.)

Anyway, it's true that I would have been booted out of Hells Kitchen because I haven't kept the challenge to the letter. In fact, any letter's seduction was far too much for me. It hurts to realise I'm the earnest student Julia Cameron talks about in her book who comes up after Reading Deprivation Week is announced to say she's far too important not to read. The world will not, in fact, survive without her reading their words.

But I have been depriving myself this week - I haven't read any books (not even in the loo. Let me repeat that, not EVEN in the loo), I haven't let myself wander round the internet as normal, and I have consciously noted every radio and television programme I might have looked at briefly when I've been in the same room. JC says that the idea is to jolt ourselves out of our normal routines, and to think about what WE think rather than what other people tell us to think. And it has worked. Not least to make me realise how much I've taken reading, internetting, watching tv, for granted.

And more than that - I've realised how fragmented I've allowed myself to get. I rarely concentrate on just one thing any more - watching TV, I'll have a book or a laptop on my knee. When I'm speaking on the telephone, I'll often check my emails at the same time. When I'm writing on the computer, I'll have instant messaging up on the computer so I can see when a new email comes in. Doing nearly everything, I'll also have the radio on - and sometimes I get so used to the background noise, I will even put on another form of noise because I'm just not noticing the first one any more. Traveling, I'll often sink into a book with my blackberry besides me, rather than enjoying the journey. And of course there's solitaire which is always around, tempting me.

It's been a wake up call.

Besides, the ways I've been distracting myself have been, at first, just that. Distractions. But yesterday, I noticed that I was feeling clearer and more focused. Cleaner somehow. And that's not just my cupboards. Oh you should see how beautiful my cupboards are - even my scarves are now colour co-ordinated.

I'm looking forward to reading again. But I'm going to keep an eye on how I use it. I'm even planning to have two internet-free days a week from now on. As JC says, "For most artists, words are like tiny tranquilizers. We have a daily quota of media chat that we swallow up. Like greasy food, it clogs our systems. Too much of it and we feel, yes, fried.

It is a paradox that by emptying our lives of distractions, we are actually filling the well. Without distractions, we are once again filling our way."


jem said...

Thanks for sharing. As you know, I'm starting mine next week. And already I'm appreciating my books far more knowing that soon I'll be without them.

And that feeling of being 'fragmented' - it's so true. Multi-tasking is the opiate of the masses. We can and are encouraged to do so many things at once that we pay no real attention to any of them.

That's one benefit I've always found with my haiku writing, it's like I have to twiddle my focus knob and really zoom in on one tiny thing to really capture it in words. I feel my calmest when I'm doing that. I just don't do it enough.

Anonymous Bosch said...

Hi Sarah I will send you a matchbox pinhole camera when I get home Im pinhole making in Prague this week.

Also I wanted to ask if I can make a portrait you with my book Camera for an Book works Exhibition thats going to be travelling uk Poland and Columbia
this would need doing before 6th may

Emma said...

I remember that week well! It is amazing the things that you get up to when you don't have your usual go-to patterns. I found myself doing yoga before bed in what would have been my normal reading time. It was really great to help me settle my brain down.

I'm now of course back to my insatiable word-devouring clogged up ways, so I would do well to keep that experience in mind.

All the best for the remainder of the course

Sarah Salway said...

Yes, Jem, and it's that moment of focus that makes it all worth while - when time just slips away! I can't believe how we used to be so proud of multi-tasking - maybe thos men who always said they could only do one thing at a time have it right?
And thanks, Emma. It's been great so far, and I like the idea of yoga before bed. I've been meditating (and cleaning cupboards)!

Sarah Salway said...

AB, a portrait would be an honour - do I have to walk down a street and you jump out at me? And a pinhole camera ... thank you! If anyone's reading this btw and doesn't know Anonymous Bosch's work, follow this link right away, it's brilliant ...

arcady said...

Despairing of keeping the house clean and in order, I once decided to set the kitchen timer each a.m. and p.m. and work vigorously for just ten minutes. The amount I accomplished in such a short time made me realize that I was so fragmented I rarely spent a focused ten minutes on any one thing.

I use the ten minute timer for lots of things now.

Thanks for the encouragement on my own blogpost,'re a sweetheart and not at all stalkery!

pinkgecko said...

So sorry I couldn't commit this time to the Artists Way. I will definately buy the book and do in the future though, it sounds well worth it.

Arcady, I am definately going to try your kitchen timer trick today.

Sarah Salway said...

Yep, pinkgecko, I'm going to steal that idea too! Thanks for it, Paige. I remember my first meditation class and how impossible it was to try to still the mind for just a minute! Sometimes I really like all the different things I do, but most of the time, it's just exhausting!

Catherine said...

I found during reading deprivation week that I was reading all sorts of things without meaning to - street signs, words on the side of a truck etc. I think we are pretty hooked on our fix of words.

Sarah Salway said...

Exactly, Catherine. But it's good sometimes to be reminded of this!