The Dangers of Reading

June 27th, 2009

Last night I went to bed late not because I was watching tv, but because I’m reading Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides. I got home after 10 and thought, I’ll just read a chapter before bed. I got into the comfy chair and read a few chapters. Then I fell asleep. When I woke up, I didn’t get up and get ready for bed, of course. I continued reading. Partly that’s because I was too tired to get up and get ready for bed. the other part is that I get totally sucked in by narrative, story line. I have to know what will happen next. That’s why I can’t stop watching tv before the episode is over, even if I hate it.

I have been working through Julia Cameron’s classic The Artist’s Way to “recover my creative self” over the past 10 weeks. Several weeks ago I was horrified by the week four exercise: reading deprivation. Just the week before I was reading the journal Creative Nonfiction and feeling energized by the ideas it gave me for my own creative nonfiction. So, I’d argue, reading is good for my creativity. That was only a small piece of my outrage, however. The real problem is that I felt that reading was my ally in my war against television addiction. It’s like my methodone.

I did it anyway, the reading deprivation–well, I made it five days. No tv and no reading. Then I binged. I had one of those epic headaches I get and I just sat down in front of the tv and watched a guy sticking his hand inside enormous freshwater carp. Then I watched a movie, “Flash of Genius” and then I watched “Clean House.”

Cameron says that blocked artists lose themselves in reading instead of creating. It is true that when I took away reading, as well as tv, I had to do other things to avoid tasks I didn’t want to start. I played with glitter glue, I did some scrapbooking, that sort of thing. I was miserable though. That week I wrote in my “morning pages” that quitting cold turkey was bad for my mental state. I realized that tv, radio and reading were self-medication for my anxiety.

I have noticed lately that I spend a lot of time reading about meditation, and not so much time meditating. I am in the middle of two books on writing creative nonfiction, and two collections of short creative nonfiction, and am not writing a whole lot of creative nonfiction. I am reading two books on being happier, and not spending time out there doing the things that make me happy. So maybe Julia Cameron has a point about being aware of how I use reading.

Anyway, I could stop anytime I want.

Comments are closed.