Skip to content

The Artist’s Way — reading eschewal

February 27, 2013

Week 4, Sense of Integrity, is where you avoid reading for a week to cleanse your mind of outside influences. I think it’s a great idea. I’ve done it before successfully. But it’s extremely difficult for me to do.

I’ve already cheated 3 of the 3 days this week. I find myself checking Twitter, or my email, or the blogs I read — even after I decided I wouldn’t.

Or I virtuously work on a written piece, only to realize I have to look something up. And before I know it, I’m reading everything in sight.

I can refrain from reading books. I haven’t opened a book (that’s not a dictionary or thesaurus) since Sunday night. Despite having a tempting pile of library books, I’ve been good.

Julia Cameron says blocked creatives are often addicted to reading. I’m addicted to reading, period. Part of my problem with this week’s assignment is how many things I use reading (constantly) for.

  • I read to wake myself up in the morning.
  • I read to calm myself for sleep.
  • When unruly emotions flood, I read to shift my energies and settle down.
  • When I’m desperate for conversation or feedback (and none are available), I read.
  • When I want encouragement but I want to avoid having to fulfill social obligations, I read. (I can’t hurt a book’s feelings.)
  • I read to learn. (I may also be addicted to learning.)
  • I read to experience emotions outside the limited range offered by daily life.
  • I read to keep up with current events.
  • I read to have topics to discuss with Spouse.
  • I read to understand individuals better. (Try, at least.)
  • Reading as much as I’ve been doing since I began haunting our local library in 2010 feels like a tangible accomplishment in itself. (n = 932 read all the way through)

I’m sure there are a lot more reasons that I’m blanking on right now.

No other activity comes close to filling so many of my needs and wants.

I’ve lately realized that I probably should find other alternative means of managing my emotions. (Besides reading.) Channeling those energies elsewhere seems good, but I tend to suck at anything that requires me to create my own structure before I can do the activity itself. That’s why reading works so well — I dive in, and my emotions (seem to) ‘take care of themselves’ — I’m not directing anything. I’ve also tried just sitting with my emotions, and not doing anything. Just getting accustomed to the discomfort of an ‘overflow’. I’ve had some success. But I have to remember to do it.

When I’m not reading, I feel completely cut off from people everywhere. That brings on panic, which I (tend to) regulate by . . . reading. Except that I’m supposed to be avoiding that activity. Before I know it, I’ve cheated. Again.

Another big issue with reading? It occupies a lot of time. Since I’m unemployed and have no friends, having something to do that prevents me from ruminating about how empty my life can seem is a really good thing. (My other go-to time-intensive activity would be sleeping. But sleeping adds that slippery slope of, why bother getting out of bed at all? That’s a line of reasoning I avoid getting tangled up in.)


I have a new fever blister, and it hurts. I hope it goes away before the second poetry meetup, this weekend.

In 2010, I wrote 75 posts, that contained a total of 23,389 words. So far in 2013, I’ve written 26 posts (not including this one), that contain a total of 28,569 words. I’ve gotten wordier.

We haven’t been getting all the snowstorms that the Midwest has, but I’m still sick of the windy, cold, and wet weather we have been getting. I want to go outside, and not have to wear my parka, hat, and gloves. (Especially since I can’t find my gloves.) I wanted to take a midnight walk tonight, but it’s been pouring for hours, so I didn’t. I did bounce on the mini trampoline, which I enjoy, but there’s no interesting scenery, so I can’t do it as long (as a walk).

I woke up Tuesday with a post on colors already writing itself. When my thoughts veered in an unexpected direction, I split my writing into two separate posts. Ultimately, though, neither of them felt ready to be written about yet. That was annoying.


Last night I dreamed I encountered a rattlesnake, amongst many other snakes. I had just read (in waking life) how you should behave if you encounter a rattlesnake — stop, then back away. In my dream, I did that. And practically stepped on a rattlesnake I hadn’t seen, behind me. That one bit me, despite my efforts to dissuade it. As I looked at my escape route, I saw it was covered in snakes. Then I woke up.

I’m not actually afraid of snakes (in general). In fact, I’ve been happy to see them — usually garter snakes — while out hiking or whatever. But poisonous snakes are rare in all the places I’ve lived. I have no desire to encounter a poisonous snake. And I don’t want to get bit by any kind of snake.

Some years ago, I dreamed about a very large snake (python-sized) in the car with Spouse and I. That dream was positive, and I felt really good about it when I woke up. (I’ve also had dreams that felt positive that featured spiders as big as my hand, jumping on me. So it’s not the mere presence of snakes or spiders that makes a dream a nightmare.) But last night’s dream was definitely a nightmare.

Not sure what the message was supposed to be. ‘You can’t avoid all potential problems, so don’t try’ seems plausible, but why tell me that now? And the setting of that portion of the dream was in a (deserted, unfinished) basement. I called for help, but no one could hear me, and I realized I’d have to rescue myself. Is the basement a metaphor for my psyche?

In a few months, I’ll be visiting the Southwest, where, my new guidebook tells me, there are 12 species of poisonous snakes, 11 of which are rattlesnakes. Is that coincidental? Or synchronicity?

I’m very much looking forward to that trip. Should I be scared instead? Of what? Where is the friendly dream-snake when I need them?!?


The 2 hours I’ve spent writing this post (it’s now 2:30 a.m.) are 2 hours I was not reading. Now it’s time for bed. I hope I will have more congenial (and understandable) dreams tonight!

2 Comments leave one →
  1. February 28, 2013 10:31

    I like your words. 🙂

    Speaking from a literal perspective, there is very little to worry about with rattlesnakes in the Southwest. I’ve lived in Southwest states my entire life, and seen a wild rattlesnake precisely once (it was on the side of the road sunning; I was on the road on a scooter. I flashed by before I had time to do more than realize I’d just seen my first wild diamondback.) And they are not terribly social if they aren’t hibernating; where one is, there is not likely to be another.

    Of course, that is unhelpful if the rattlesnake is not a rattlesnake.

    Reading as an escape for a blocked creative has got me thinking. I have felt blocked for quite a while, and I intentionally use reading to calm and refocus myself – or so I thought. Perhaps I should try not reading for a while and see what happens, but the thought causes me distress. I will think on it more.

    • February 28, 2013 13:26

      I will tell Spouse what you say about rattlesnakes. He thinks I’m nuts for wanting to visit the American Rattlesnake Museum.

      On ‘giving up reading’. The first few days of ‘detox/withdrawal’ are brutal. But when you’ve achieved getting it out of your system – which happened for me, Wednesday, it feels kind of amazing. It’s like your brain is clear for the first time in … years. It’s definitely worth doing, if you can get through the (horrible) beginning. YMMV, of course. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: