Periodically, I give up reading.
I know, I know, it sounds crazy, doesn’t it?
Good writers are writers who read. I totally agree with that statement.
But every once in a while, I realize that my reading is actually getting in the way of my writing: I’m reading as a way to procrastinate.
Sometimes reading takes the place of writing, and sometimes it takes the place of thinking about my writing. Neither is a good thing.
The first time I read a suggestion to stop reading (in Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, many years ago), I thought Julia was way off. I was working full-time as a physician at the time, so how could she ask me to give up that 15 minutes of bedtime reading that I got in a few nights a week?
She wasn’t asking me to give it up. She was asking me if I wanted to be a writer (artist).
And I did—still do. So, I stopped reading for a week. And realized how much reading I had been “sneaking in” to my daily life. Those few minutes added up to almost an hour a day—mostly over solitary meals.
Instead of reading, I thought my thoughts. And came up with some ideas for stories. By the end of the week, I was sorry to see my moratorium on reading come to an end. But end it did, because reading is as natural to me as breathing, so without conscious effort not to read, I was back to reading at any available moment.
Since that time, I have periodically given up reading. I often give up reading fiction, but more rarely I will stop reading anything. When I do this I:
- journal more,
- write more,
- get more ideas for stories, articles, etc.,
- write more cards and letters,
- stay present more.
The end result of a week of not reading is, as Julia intended, a welling up of ideas, images, and thoughts that flow into my writing and into my life.
Not reading improves my writing, not to mention my productivity. I never would have believed it if I hadn’t tried it myself.
Today I’m going to stop reading again for 1 week.
Try it yourself and let me know what happens for you.
Diane MacKinnon, MD, is currently a full-time mother, part-time life coach, part-time writer. She is a Master Certified Life Coach, trained by Martha Beck, among others. She is passionate about her son, her writing and using her mind to create a wonderful present moment. Find her life coaching blog at http://www.dianemackinnon.com/blog.