I’m on week four of the fore mentioned “The Artists’s way.” I have come to the dreaded Media deprivation section. This was originally known as reading deprivation when the book was first written, but because our lives are now so overrun with screens, phones news and media of all forms, it’s been changed to media deprivation week.
Essentially the idea is you cut yourself off from all media input for a week. This means no;
newspapers or magazines
listening to audio books
listening to talk radio or podcasts.
Why, I hear you ask, would anyone in there right mind DELIBERATELY deprive themselves of all those wonderful, entertaining things for a whole week? What on Earth do you do instead?
Well, lets start with the why, first.
Julia Cameron states,
“By emptying our lives of distraction we are actually filling the well. Without distractions we are once again thrust into the sensory world. With no newspaper (twitter or Facebook feed….) to shield us, a train becomes a viewing gallery. With no novel to sink into and no Television to numb us out an evening becomes a vast savannah in which furniture- and other assumptions- get re-arranged”
The idea being then, that if you don’t pacify, numb or distract yourself with media and constant input you will actually be able to hear yourself think and allow some ideas of your own to come through. Instead of collecting and hoarding information from others we are free to create, to make to out-put.
If you sit in front of a blank piece of paper for long enough with no internet access, no phone, no talk radio no TV, you will soon find yourself (re-organising the sock draw, but once that’s done…) unable to not write, or draw, or doodle, or fold the paper into origami.
So, then comes the question of what do you do instead? Well, she suggests you can listen to music, do chores, cook, sort out drawers, paint, chat to some friends, go for a walk, paint the house, wash the dog, dance, write, do some gardening, learn to knit….the list is endless!
So I have decided in my infinite wisdom that I am going to take on the “reading/media deprivation” challenge. Now, I’m not going to lie, my phone is not going to be switched off in a draw for a week, and I’m not going to turn off the home internet (or I may be killed in my sleep) I am still going to reply to texts and if I really need to know something or use some resource on the internet then I will. AND I’ve still not decided if I am going to allow myself to read BOOKS, actual physical books or not. Because I don’t think reading books is a problem. In fact I should probably read more books. We’ll see how that goes. But otherwise, I’m going to try my best to deprive myself of media input for….at least 4 days.
I’ve decided to keep a little diary of the effects and outcomes for the length of my media deprivation to record how difficult it is, what I actually get done if anything and whether all that deprivation is worth it.
So the challenge has begun! What did I do on my first day? what difference did I notice if any? How hard was it?
Well, lets just say this, it was hard. Harder than you think. But also it was an INCREDIBLY productive day.
I didn’t make any art or write but my sock draw has NEVER been so organised. It is positively brimming with paired up socks. The washing basket is empty and we now have loads of clothes that we never knew existed because they’d been in the bottom of the wash basket for that long. I’ve got a huge list of blog post ideas I’d like to write, Joe is squeaky clean and has a very organised toy chest, the bins are emptied, the bathrooms clean, the recipe folder that was once a bulging mess is now neatly organised, the medicine draw is very neat and so is Joe’s chest of drawers, the tea’s cooked and everything’s tidied up and packed away! GREAT! Now….what will I do for the rest of the week……?
There were times on day one that I really noticed the absence of my phone and particularly internet access. Turns out I Google EVERYTHING. Apparently I cannot make a simple decision without googling it first to see what everyone else would do in that situation.
What shall I cook for tea?….Google it.
What’s that weird rash?….. Google it.
So…media deprivation eh….Google it.
I think I’ll write a list… what shall I write on my list….I’ll Google it!
The same goes for Pinterest. I cannot it seems, get dressed, make food, play with my son, clean, organise or breathe without looking on Pinterest for “inspiration” first.
It’s not like I sit around on my phone all day normally, but it’s in those quiet minutes, those small moments between doing other stuff that is when I find myself twitching for my phone. Like when I make a brew, waiting for kettle to boil I’d usually scroll Pinterest or google something. (like, how to make a brew, probably). When Joe’s in the bath I’d usually listen to a podcast or read a blog post while he plays.
Well, on day one when I sat in the garden with Joe I had to… well…just sit in the garden. In fact I literally couldn’t just sit there so I took some photographs (which is allowed) re-potted a plant and answered some texts (which I’m allowing as long as I do it at a designated time rather than responding Pavlov’s dog’s style to the rings and chirps of my phone). When Joe was in the bath I cleaned the rest of the bathroom then, through desperation I actually played with my son. What a novel idea.
During Day one I felt a bit like I didn’t have any “down time.” If I was sat still at any point I’d fill my time with some sort of ‘productive’ task or ‘busy work’ so I didn’t really feel like I had a break. Usually on my brew break I’d sit and browse the internet or read a blog or check twitter or something. But I couldn’t do that. And I found it very hard to just…be. Maybe that will get easier through the week?
In the evening, after Joe had gone to bed me and Rob had a meal at the table like civilised human beings, we cleaned up the dinner stuff (which never normally happens until the next morning) we put some music on and we chatted to each other ALL EVENING. Well. We also laughed at each other trying to attempt weird yoga poses (and Rob probably significantly injured himself in the process of attempting a back bend…) but apart from that no one was harmed and we went to bed at a reasonable time.
Maybe there’s something to this media deprivation after all?
I slept through the whole night and woke up half an hour earlier than usual without feeling like I was going to die or kill. This is generally unheard of as I usually have to be prised out of bed with a crow bar and have coffee injected into my eyes before I can function on a human level.
I got my morning pages written and was up, washed, dressed, bed made before Joe crept out of his room to tell me the sun was up on the clock. What is this madness?! Maybe the reduction in screen time is helping my sleep?
Nursery day mornings are always quite busy in our house as we have to be up, dressed, breakfasted and have Joe’s physiotherapy and medications done all before nursery. Usually I have to clean up last nights dishes in the morning, but that was all done and the house was already tidy and all his medications and clothes and nursery stuff had been prepared the night before. And I was dressed. So it was a relatively relaxed pre-nursery morning. I had no chance to be distracted by my phone so we actually got to nursery slightly early. And had time for snuggles and a chat in the car. Bonus.
I had my artists date this morning (see #theartistsway post) which I was spending walking round arts and crafts stores to get inspiration. I usually listen to podcasts in the car or talk radio, but I listened to music instead and it was actually quite nice, although the journeys to and from the shops seemed a bit longer.
I decided to return from the shops early to write and I wrote blog content for two and a half hours.
No googling how to write blog content.
No Pinterest “Inspiration breaks”.
Without a sock draw to tidy or a phone chirping In my ear it turns out I have more time on my hands than I first thought, and instead of doing chores broken up by breaks of media time while Joe is at nursery I’ve actually done something. Who knows if its any good. Who cares?! Its just the creating that counts.
It was harder in the afternoon when Joe was back from nursery. He was a bit under the weather so after an adventurous morning at nursery he just wanted to relax and watch TV. I did more chores but started to get bored. I was used to just picking up my phone when I had five minutes but now I actually had to face being bored which no one ever does any more. And I began to notice the constant inner monologue in my head.
Listening to this inner monologue with no means of escape made me realise why people have things to distract themselves with. The inane chatter never stops! No wonder we want to shut it up!
Luckily I had a yoga class that evening and we did a bit of mindfulness meditation. It was a bit easier than usual. By ten O’clock I was ready for bed.
I slept great and woke up at 6.30am again, so I definitely think the lack of screen time is helping my sleep. I did my morning pages and was able to be up, showered and dressed before Joe was out of his room, another successful pre-nursery morning.
A weird thing happened on day 3. I woke up and didn’t have that feeling of dread, which I often have. This is the feeling of not really wanting to get up and face the day, not really wanting to do stuff. Most days I feel a bit…blergh, with the idea of more cleaning and chores and trying to get a small child to eat something that’s not brown hanging over me.
Most days I would look at the internet (mainly Pinterest and Instagram before I deleted it) and see what other people are doing in there lives for “inspiration”, admiring all the stuff they make and the things they do and what they wear and I compare my life to there shiny happy lives and instead of feeling inspired to create stuff and create a life I love I kind of feel a bit depressed. I feel like what’s the point in trying because my life doesn’t look like that. My life looks like a Pinterest fail.
But just a few days without the opportunity to compare my life to the lives of others on the internet I’ve woken up with a bit of anticipation for the day. I’ve woken up with an idea of some things I’d like to do today, without having to google it first. I’m inspired without having to seek inspiration from other peoples lives.
I spend the whole morning while Joe is at nursery, after doing a few essential chores, making something. And while I’m making something I think of lots of other things I’d like to make next. Instead of scrabbling around in my head trying to think of things I can do, I now have a big list of things I actually WANT to do.
I’m beginning to realise that all the constant input from outside sources is actually blocking me, not inspiring me like I thought it did.
I set up lots of toys ready for when Joe returns from nursery, and take him out to the pirate ship playground to play. I think I’m going to be bored watching him play on the playground without my phone to keep me company but I find I don’t miss it at all and I derive great joy from watching him play “man overboard!!” with some new friends he’s made.
One thing I do miss though is reading. My magazine got delivered and I was really, really tempted to open it but I managed to resist. I can believe I’ve managed to go with out TV for three days because I don’t watch a lot anyway, in fact before Joe was born me and Rob lived without a TV for years, but I can’t believe I’ve lasted three days without reading.
I really, really want to read.