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Wednesday, February 10, 2010


Stalking the circuit around the living and dining rooms, across the 1990's blue and beige patchwork kitchen, I rub my arms up and down. Why do they itch so? Purple elephants, or are they pink? That’s what comes next, right? Of course, the newspaper would have to sprawl over the counter, like a gangly teenager, all elbows and knees, in-your-face slouching across a too-narrow space. Oh God. Library books. Four stacked and waiting to be returned on the desk, another open and face-down on the coffee table; the one I can't see, bookmarked and taunting from the bureau next to the bed.

Huh! Don’t look at the bookshelves. Six rows double-stacked. No you don't. Just. Turn. Away. How can I do this? Impossible. Magazines, Bon Appetite, Food and Wine, slick covers sliding off of each other, a corner folded where I left off reading last month’s Yankee. My heart. It’s skipping beats, it’s pounding too hard. I can’t breathe. I CAN’T BREATHE! Yes, you can. Yes, you can. Inhale, exhale, force the air in, blow out. I'm thirsty. Water. A glass of water, pure and cleansing from the pitcher in the fridge. Drink it down. Shake out your shoulders. Sit at the computer. Write because it means not reading. Work on the piece you have ignored for three weeks. Write anything. Make up a story, a distraction. Travel inside, dig down; take a backhoe, at least a shovel. Go after it.

Does it count if I read what I have written? What about the blogs? Those too? But I have to review at least a few. What about the lesson from my on-line class? Surely that's OK?

You have got to be kidding me. I cannot do this. I cannot stop myself from reading for an entire week.

It has been 24 hours.

I’ve never smoked. I don’t use recreational drugs. I enjoy wine on the weekends and sometimes think it would be hard to give up. But today, I know my real addiction.

Lesson Four: The Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron:

“If you feel stuck in your life or in your art, few jump starts are more effective than a week of reading deprivation…For most artists, words are like tiny tranquilizers…Like greasy food, it clogs our system…It is a paradox that by emptying our lives of distractions, we are actually filling the well. Without distractions, we are once again thrust into the sensory world…With no newspaper to shield us, a train becomes a viewing gallery. With no novel to sink into (and no television to numb us out) our evening becomes a vast savannah in which furniture—and other assumptions—get rearranged…Reading deprivation is very a powerful tool—and a very frightening one. Even thinking about it can bring up enormous rage. For most blocked creatives, reading is an addiction. We gobble the words of others rather than digest our own thoughts and feelings, rather than cook up something of our own.”

Between reading blogs and the newspaper, I’ve slipped up already. But I edited and re-wrote something I’ve been ignoring since January 21.

Still though, I’m not sure I can do this. The burning flames of withdrawal hell have nothing on a bookless me.

Cross your fingers.


Elana Johnson said...

Oh, wow. I'm not sure I could do that either! Good luck?? :)

Sarah Jensen said...

The girls at If You Give a Girl a Pen have awarded you with the Sunshine Award.

Carolina M. Valdez Schneider said...

I have to withdraw. I have to. I'm not writing, and this is killing me.



glnroz said...

goodness, I have been kinda out of pocket for a day or two. What are you "withdrawing" from.. i guess i will backtrack. Sounds like you are wrestling with it. lol

Tabitha Bird said...

Withdrawal can be hard with little kids around. But I find I must make time for stillness. Too much around me is simple too much. Great post.

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Whew! That's HARD. But the days I don't allow myself to go online and only open my manuscript, things happen. It does work, but I don't know about more than a day or two!!!

Helen Ginger said...

I can't imagine stopping all reading for a week or even a day. Could a person do it? I'd be a twitching mess.

Straight From Hel