Reading Deprivation, a.k.a. ARRRGH
I've been working my way through Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way lately. Today is Week Four, Day Two.
Why am I doing this? Mainly because it's been a long time since I could truthfully say, "I write every day." And that bothers me. At the very least, an honest effort to pursue Cameron's 12-week course will mean doing daily "morning pages" for at least 84 days straight. Morning pages may not be art, they may not be salable, they may not even be writing (Cameron says not; she says writers have the hardest time with her course because they do try to turn their morning pages into "writing"). But they are productive exercise. They're me thinking on the page, which is worthwhile; for having such a nonstop hamster-wheel of a mind, I have a tendency to avoid my own thoughts.
I'm trying to make a good faith effort on the weekly exercises, too. Stuff like "Describe your childhood room. Now describe your current room. Can you add anything to it from your childhood room?" and "Time travel: Imagine yourself at 80. What have you done since you were 50?" I often avoid these because they feel too twee, or because I'm sure I did them last time I went through the book (in, what, 2002?) and nothing's changed since (O RLY?). Or, worse, because I'm certain there's nothing there. I had a good childhood. My parents raised me to pursue my creative bliss. When I showed signs of wanting to be a painter, Mom bought me acrylics and canvas; when I started saying I was going to be a writer, Mom brought home a Fisher-Price typewriter. My teachers were all supportive and taught me how to submit fiction to paying markets. I've got a loving and well-paid husband who is happy to support my writing habit and likes me to read him my stories. Surely I have no "childhood enemies" stifling my craft, no super-ego foe planted by adult disapproval, no current environment devaluing my efforts. Surely?
Except that I haven't written or submitted much since coming home from Viable Paradise back in October 2006. Clearly something's going on. And Cameron's course feels like a method of self-discovery I can have faith in. So I go through it in the spirit of play and, occasionally, surprise myself with an insight. "That voice in my head that wants perfection all the time, that needs to have its expectations met. Why's it there at all?" "Why do I so often say to myself in my morning pages, 'Yesterday I was a good girl; I did X, Y, and Z like I ought.'? Do I feel guilty about something? About having fun, maybe?"
And of course there's positive affirmations. One thing the student is supposed to do is listen for the Censor's "blurts" in the morning pages and come up with "positive affirmations" that counter the blurts. So if the Censor says, "Why do you even bother starting? You know you've got no ideas worth pursuing," I can grab that blurt and devise an affirmation: "I am a prolific writer. I write new stories every day. There is no end to the flow of story ideas." Then I can write it down five times in a row. Does it help? Maybe. It's too soon to tell. But it doesn't hurt, and it gets me closer to the end of my three daily longhand pages. So why not?
Do note that if you're the sort to scoff at exercises and "tricks to get you to write" that, y'know, real writers don't need, don't bother telling me about it. I don't particularly care.
In any case, I'm seeing real, tangible results in my "productive" (read: salable) writing. I'm rewriting and submitting again. Tomorrow evening, "The Impact Of Snowflakes" gets critiqued by my semimonthly writing group in Denver. And a few days ago I took the time to read through every version I have of "The Day The Sidewalks Melted" and began making mental notes toward a revision. I hope to submit both to commercial markets Very Soon. Also, I've been uploading to Constant-Content articles in my "Awaken to Dreams" series--and someone came along and bought the right to publish five of them on their website today. Which is another $50 in my pocket. Which is nice!
Only here's the snag. Week 4 in The Artist's Way is the infamous Reading Deprivation week. No reading. At all. No drowning out your creativity with the soporific effect of other people's words.
Sounds... easy enough. Well, it sounds painful. Reading at night is how I get to sleep. Reading blogs is how I stay in touch with communities I cherish; it's also my primary means of getting news of the world. But it sounds doable, right?
Except... I'm planning a series of pro-vaccination articles to make available for sale at Constant-Content. But if I can't read, I can't research.
Except... I was going to rewrite "Sidewalks," but I can't if I can't have the text-to-date open in front of me.
Except... there's also email! Instant messenger! Physical mail, including utility bills! Volunteer reading for AINC! And so forth! And so on!
So, I compromise. Today I wrote a rough draft of the pro-flu-shot article ("Ten Excuses People Give For Avoiding The Influenza Vaccine"), and it's full of red "[look this up later]" notes. I'll keep writing rough drafts all week, and next week I'll do the research and finish them. And the fiction rewrites can wait; I'll write new fiction this week and do the rewrites next week. And as for the reading that's necessary for daily communication... well, I'm not going to neglect my friends and loved ones by not reading their communications. And I'm not going to stint on the work I've committed to. But I'm learning that there's a lot more reading than I realized that can simply wait.
Truly this is the age of information. Written information. One can't get away from it entirely. But I guess one can take long walks, listen to music, knit more, and meditate.
And play more Puzzle Pirates! Right? Right?
(Seriously. Playing more YPP shortly. I've been a very good girl today. I deserve some fun time.)