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03/10/2006 Archived Entry: "The Artist's Way -- no reading for a week"

SUNDAY I EMBARK ON THE FOURTH WEEK of the 12-week Artist's Way. (I say embark because this whole thing feels like a journey.)

The big feature of Week Four is another kind of silence. The author of the book asks us not to read anything for seven days. She's a tad bit vague on what that means. Does required reading during business hours count? Dunno. OTOH, she makes it perfectly clear that students whose homework includes reading assignments and VIPs who usually scan reports while commuting are to stop. Just weasel out of that sort of thing for the entire week, no matter how important our reading is.

What she's really getting at is quit engaging in passive 'activities' for a week. Use the time to discover how much extra creative energy is available. Instead of sitting and receiving, knit, paint the bedroom, cook a gourmet meal, write a short story, choreograph a dance number, play a musical instrument, solve a mathematical theorem, grind a telescope mirror, or build a birdhouse.

I've already begun a largish creative project, and a few days ago, a dump truck arrived with enough horse apples and wood shavings to fill the Augean Stables. So I guess it's time to start those raised-bed gardens I've been threatening to build and plant.

I know nothing, nada, zip, about gardening, and I do not approve of dirt, worms, rotten weather, and other prominent "features" of Mother Nature (and the users manual insists that they really are features, not bugs -- even when they have six legs and creep up inside your pants), so that's going to be interesting.

I'm going to do what reading I must to complete my writing assignments. But I'm going to cut out not only all unnecessary reading but all passive entertainments for seven days, including DVD-watching and nice, mindless games of Freecell on the computer.

Readers tend to pride ourselves on being readers. And why not? Reading is better than a lot of the alternatives -- TV gazing or drunken stupors, for instance (but I repeat myself). Reading is a sign that we're inquisitive and smart. But from the time many years ago when I caught myself sitting on the kitchen floor reading labels on cleaning products just because there was nothing else to read in the house, I got a clue what I was really doing. Avoiding reality. I also had an aunt who prided herself on her voracious reading and announced her virtue to all the world by crowing, "I'll read anything. Anything at all!"

But that's like saying, "I'll eat garbage." Or "I have no taste and I'm proud!" Indiscriminate reading is about as virtuous as any other indiscriminate behavior (although a lifetime of it has produced a heck of a lot of Jeopardy champions, I suspect).

So a week of non reading will be a creative challenge and an invitation to observe reality (even if reality does have too damn many creepy-crawly critters in it).

It's now the third month of my Year of Silence. January (with phone and Internet still connected) seemed like the month when nothing was going to work. I was busy, scattered, jumpy, wondering whether I'd just spend a whole year spinning my wheels. February was the opposite. February was one damn profound time. A month of rapid transformation -- but much of it within.

March is shaping up as a month of doing, a month in which all of February's explorations of inner terra incognita are yielding adventure and creative gold. Could still be fool's gold at this point. I don't know. But I'm enjoying the journey.


After expressing doubts last week about the value of blogging any of this, I got several nice messages of support, especially from LL and R. Thank you, guys. If blogging about my journey helps light anybody else's path, I'll be so gratified I'll glow. But if you find it all a bore, please just skip these entries. I'll still have some political palaver periodically. And the Wolfesblog blogroll contains plenty to make any political junkie happy.

Posted by Claire @ 12:26 PM CST

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