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."