This week I’m pleased to present a post by Kelsey Browning, part of the “faculty” of Romance University, which along with Wordplay was one of 2012’s Top 10 Blogs for Writers. Today, she talks about why writers sometimes shouldn’t read.
She is too fond of books, and it has turned her brain.First, thanks to K.M. for inviting me to be a guest at Wordplay. Romance University is in such fabulous company among Write to Done’s other Top 10 Blogs!
—Louisa May Alcott
We’re going to talk about something potentially painful today, so square your shoulders, puff out your chest and gird your loins. Deep breath…
Learning to read is like growing strong, tireless wings. Wings with the ability to take us anywhere, anytime. Most of us grow these amazing transportation devices between the ages of four and seven. Think back… can you remember a single day since you learned to read that you haven’t used those fabulous freedom wings?
If you’re anything like me, your answer is: “Are you serious?”
Writers are, after all, readers first.
|Image by Fahid Chowdhury|
Good news: No lemongrass juice.
Bad news: No reading for a week.
I first discovered this “reading deprivation” technique in Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. Chapter four to be exact. I’m fairly certain my eyes bugged out when I read the week’s assignment. No reading.
I’ll repeat in case your eyes are now bulging. No reading.
Why would anyone, especially a writer, consider depriving herself of life’s greatest pleasure? Again, why? Because we occasionally suffer from image and word constipation. Take a minute to think about and jot down all you read over the course of a day. How long is your daily reading list? (Yes, write it down and don’t cheat.)
Here’s mine: non-fiction books, novels, magazines, websites, blog posts, instruction manuals, email, homework, notes, texts, cereal boxes, toilet paper packages.
How much of your list is quality reading material, and how much of it is junk you don’t care about? Sometimes we fill ourselves up with so much stuff, it’s almost impossible to hear our own thoughts. After a week, you’ll be amazed at how much pure thinking you’re able to do without the distraction of reading.
Reading deprivation also creates an acceptable excuse not to be swallowed up by information overload. Heck, you may even learn some “work” you’ve been so keen to accomplish isn’t important or urgent. Toss it!
When should you consider a “mental cleanse?”
When you’re feeling overwhelmed, either by your writing or generally by life. You might also consider a stint of reading deprivation when you’re brainstorming a new story or concept. Can you imagine the brilliance that might break through without all that mental static interfering?
Maybe you’re grudgingly (very grudgingly) considering the reading sabbatical concept, but how do you accomplish this feat?
First, give yourself a few days advance notice. After all, you’ll need to do that loin-girding, but you don’t want to allow yourself so much lead time that you chicken out. Then go cold turkey. Flip the switch and don’t look back.
Remove temptation. Clear off your bedside table, your desk, that little basket by your toilet. And whatever you do, do not rearrange or catalog your book collection this week.
Pick a reasonable week. For example, if you’re an English teacher, don’t schedule your cleanse on the week your students are submitting an essay project. And be careful not to substitute another “drug.” Those could include alcohol, TV or anything else you’re using to fill the void that’s forcing you to think instead of consume. Realize you will be uncomfortable, even irritable. After all, you’re detoxing.
Tell other people if you think it will help you stick to your plan, but do so at your loved ones’ risk. When I went through this process, my husband joked about it, and I almost went for his throat. You may be glad to know he is still breathing, and even ambulatory.
What the heck will you do with all that time?
You’ll have time to…um…write. And time and energy to spend on other creative pursuits. As Julia Cameron says, “…you will run out of work and be forced to play.” But if you simply can’t think of how you will fill your hours, I’ve put together a small list of possibilities:
- Take a walk
- Clean out a closet
- Knit a sweater
- Make a collage
- Play your guitar
- Take a warm bath
- Lounge in a hammock (a personal favorite)
About the Author: Kelsey Browning writes contemporary and paranormal romance with a hint of southern sizzle. She’s a co-founder of the Romance University blog and a squirrel-chaser at Author EMS. Originally from Texas and after four years in the Middle East, she now lives in Southern California with her IT-savvy husband, baseball-obsessed son, and seriously spoiled dog. She’s currently at work on a paranormal novella and a Kick But(t) non-fiction project.
Tell me your opinion: Have you ever voluntarily given up reading for a day, a week, longer? What rewards did you reap or consequences did you suffer?
Related Posts: Read, Read, Read
Why You Should Read the Type of Stories You Write
Reading With Attention
Story by K.M. Weiland