Cruel & Unusual ~ An Artist’s Trials

Honoring my commitment to follow “The Artist’s Way” from beginning to end, I opened my copy of Julia Cameron’s guide Sunday afternoon. Never quite knowing what to expect from these highly spiritual messages, I had been warned of a week in which artists are advised not to read, particularly for pleasure or to waste snippets of time. Well, I discovered that this is it, week four.

I didn’t foresee that being a tremendous hardship, not for a mere seven days. It came as a surprise to discover just how often I grab a book when settling down to some mindless physical task. Discovering this addiction to the written word has become my first real epiphany through the Artist’s Way and made me want to examine the habit more deeply.

I remember that the tendency started before I could even decipher the English alphabet. My mother likes to remind me how her little girl would sit on the potty training seat flipping through a catalog or magazine, admiring the neat lines of print as much as the pictures. At the breakfast table, the outside of cereal boxes became as much a staple as the contents. When finished with whatever interested me, I would consume the ingredients list. This appetite always seemed like a good thing, and it is. However, I do understand the goal of abstinance.

By resisting a constant stream of input, we stop sedating the creative mind with others’ thoughts and ideas. Already, the AW exercises received more attention this week because they gave me something to do besides open the novel I’m currently reading. I actually enjoyed undertaking those assignments and hope this might inspire a new level of commitment to Ms. Cameron’s process.

As I am composing this on Monday, we shall see how the rest of the week goes. I passed two difficult tests so far, restraining myself from pouring over what two talented colleagues have recently composed. One of these treasured individuals didn’t know about this temporary restriction and actually emailed story snippets for something to brighten my workday. She graciously understood my reason for not being able to read, which is turning out to be a real trial!

It’s just a good thing I didn’t read “The Artist’s Way” any earlier than I did on Sunday. Being forced to set aside Kimberly Gardner’s novelette “Phoenix Rising” halfway through would have truly been cruel and unusual punishment.

6 Replies to “Cruel & Unusual ~ An Artist’s Trials”

  1. I know exactly what you mean about being glad you finished something before you realized it was reading deprivation week, lol. I had my heart set on spending time Sunday by the pool, and what I do then is read and zone out. I wanted *that* image, not a substitute.

    I had a bit of a hard time falling asleep last night without time spent reading to flip my thinking brain to "off", but it happened. So we'll see how the rest of this week goes.

    Good luck, Darla!

  2. I hope it's helping you with your creative process! I know what you mean, though, about discovering just exactly how much we do to sort of numb out, even though it isn't a drug. It's interesting.

    Of course, sitting in the bath tub with a good book is just…

    for next week. ~headdesk~


    Good luck the rest of this week!!

  3. Darla, my long lost sister!

    My mother too read to me during potty training and I have memorized the ingredient list to each childhood cereal!

    I took my children to the library today knowing that I would not be able to join them in an afternoon read then nap. (The house is always so quiet when they have new books. I suppose I did actually realize the numbing power of books years ago.) There was jealousy in my heart as they loaded up their backpacks with reading material but I did pick up one book which shall remain safely unopened for the next few days. ~promise~

    So, instead of reading I planned a nice soak in the tub with a…book… Damn, that didn't work either, as Noony pointed out. ~snort~

    And taking the kids to the pool tomorrow while I read poolside? Alas, like Nikki I was frustrated again. I think that's a sign I should get in and play WITH them, right?

    I had to snicker at the title of your post, it's way too appropriate. At least I am not alone in the deprivation, as your thoughtful post proved.

    Hang tough, artists!


  4. I can't think of a nicer bunch to suffer alongside. Alas, my creativity is stalled. I blame a combination of a mini mental breakdown at the day job and some kind of rebellion against this process. My company has been appreciated each evening at home, however! I'm going to look at it like that and be content. When the time is right, I'll be back in my quiet office cranking out story.

  5. Lucius, I'm impressed. I'd be curious to know what else you did in lieu of reading. Some folks gave me the impression that substitutes like movies are no better. I guess the important thing is what we bring out of it. My substitute choices were deliberate, at least. I hope you're being creatively productive!

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