Boost your creativity: Stop reading.

I’m sure you’ve heard about people going a week without television. Lately, people trying to take a break from technology and reconnect more humanly are going a week without social media or texting. I have something harder.

Try going a week without reading.

Yeah, you heard me, reading—and not just novels and magazines. No reading blogs, newspapers, or online news stories. No reading texts, e-mails, Facebook posts and Twitter tweets. About the most you’re allowed to read are street signs.

Try stopping for a day, you’ll see how much of a reader you’ve become. Try stopping for a week, you just may change your life.

As Julia Cameron says:

We have a daily quota of media chat that we swallow up. Like greasy food, it clogs our system. Too much of it and we feel, yes, fried.

In Ms. Cameron’s The Artist’s Way (a self-led workshop on creativity), Chapter 4 requires that you stop reading for the week.Blog author reading The Artist's Way

The goal is to free your mind from all that weighs it down. Instead of filling your mind with other people’s thoughts and words, you can now fill it with your own.

I can tell you I wasn’t very good at not reading, but even by limiting my reading (cutting out a heck of a lot), I learned this is true:

  • Creativity comes more easily. One blog post came to me while I rode my bike. For another, I looked to my surroundings and interviewed someone rather than reading for ideas.
  • You have more time to do with what you want. I was more productive at work and at home because I wasn’t online or in a book.
  • You spend more time reading than you think you do. In today’s online world, we read way too much. Much of what we read is by routine.

Here’s what else I learned:

  • Not reading is HARD! Monday morning, I logged in to my e-mail and immediately opened the day’s USA Today. When I was done skimming the headlines and reading about two stories, I realized I was reading. Ugh. An hour into my week and I was already, accidentally, breaking the rules.
  • Not cheating is hard. Excuses are so easy to come by. I read for my job, so I easily could have read much more and excused it. Don’t fall into this trap.
  • Defining cheating is tough. Sunday night I popped in to Twitter’s #blogchat, but within a few minutes I had to leave. As much as I wanted to call it “chatting,” I was reading, no doubt.

If not reading for a week scares you, give it up for a day. But really give it up. At the very least, you’ll be more conscious of what you do with your time. And that is always a good thing.

Let me know how your day or week of reading deprivation turns out. Oh, and one piece of advice: Wait until you finish that fantastic novel you started—why make it harder, right?

**************

Want to know more about The Artist’s Way? Check out the official The Artist’s Way website. To see how others fared with reading deprivation, try the unofficial The Artist’s Way blog and Watson’s Unleashed.

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4 comments

  1. skipshoe · August 24, 2010

    Funny. I just made a commitment last night to set aside a “reading day” because I get so far behind in my business reading. 🙂

    That said, I love The Artist’s Way and the practices she outlined. A great way to break through things that are blocking our creativity. Maybe after a reading day, I could have a no-reading day?

    BTW – so you read for work. Did you do this while you were off for a week? It sounds like you created boundaries for yourself with work-related reading vs. non-work-related reading. Even that was effective, ay?

    • ctmarcom · August 24, 2010

      Hi Skip,
      Funny! It’s tough to feel caught up these days. But not reading for a week did show me that I should prioritize my reading better and realize when I could be making better use of my time. Reading has become a form of procrastination, in some respects. I like your idea of mixing it up–a reading day and a non-reading day.

      I did create boundaries for myself with my work reading and easily found more time in my day. So much of what we do at work becomes habit, it was tough. And I had started reading an interesting novel right before I hit that week. I so missed it! But I didn’t pick it up once. I will definitely be working more no-reading days into my future.
      –Coreen

  2. myemailaddress · September 2, 2010

    Give up my novels for a week??? Oh, you ask too much, Coreen! Email, LinkedIn, blogs, maybe even the newspaper, but The Girl Who Played With Fire? I gasp at the thought (while I get your point). Thanks for a provoking – uh – read.

    • ctmarcom · September 2, 2010

      Believe me, I know! It killed me to have to put aside my novel, but the week definitely opened my eyes to how much time I spend reading versus doing. And, for the record, I think you could still learn the lesson as long as you eliminate the majority of your reading. Let me know if you ever try it.

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