As I write these words, I’m in the middle of an experiment of sorts. More accurately, I’ve taken on a task in the form of a challenge to spend a week reading nothing.
I’m part of a group meeting weekly to work through Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. After each chapter, Cameron assigns tasks for the reader to take on. One of the fourth chapter tasks is to undergo “reading deprivation. Why? She explains it best:
“Reading deprivation casts us into our inner silence…We often cannot hear our own inner voice, the voice of our artist’s inspiration…”
So, this week I’ve allowed myself only to read what is necessary for work and text messages from family and friends. Aside from that, I’m not reading any articles or books, not watching the news, and not checking my social media platforms for likes, comments, or reactions. I’m not even listening to any podcasts. And, though I’ve only been at this for a couple of days, I’ve already had some insight on how I will reengage with the reading world — especially social media — when I end my seven-day sabbatical.
There have been a few moments over the last few days when I find myself reflexively launching Facebook or Instagram or Twitter. I don’t even realize I’m doing it. Then, before I get into it, I catch myself and shut the app down. But, it occurred to me how mindlessly I can jump into social media and then almost as mindlessly react to what I see.
Conan tweeting something? He’s hilarious. I’ll read that later. Retweet!
Paul shared an article? I almost always agree with him. I’ll like it, share it, then read it later.
Tom Hanks? Heart!
Mindy Kaling? Heart!
Patrick Stewart? Heart!
Zooey Deschanel? Heart!
Despite recognizing my tendency to pick up my phone and go right to social media, I’m glad to say it isn’t something I miss. I don’t find my emotional state altered from not engaging with it or any of the other reading I usually do. This exercise is allowing me to consider how I will engage with these outside channels after this week has passed.
Rather than being mindless and reactive, I’m going to attempt to be mindful and proactive. Moving forward, how I engage with social media and what I choose to read will be driven by a level of intentionality not previously exhibited. The goal is to enrich others, to communicate my ideas gently, even and maybe especially the uncomfortable ones.
There is a notable feeling of silence during this time of reading deprivation. But I find myself filling those moments with recollections of days past, music, a phone call or text to a friend. I’m journaling more, reflecting on the day’s experiences and where life is taking me. This time of self-denial has been a time to do a little spring cleaning of my mind.
I do miss the things from which I’m taking a break, and I know I’ll jump back in as soon as this week is over.
But I do want it to be better.