March 27, 2017
These past few weeks have been a lot for me. I’ve felt overwhelmed and underwhelmed, isolated and crowded, confident and unsure. The roller coaster has me completely off balance and mostly, I just feel confused about what I’m doing and why. One thing has been clear, however: I’m accumulating obligations and on a scale of important to not, they’re skewing toward the latter.
While I’d wager that some (or a lot) of this is due to the natural ebb and flow of energy over time, the volatility is too much for me, so I was already looking for something I could do to modulate my energy a bit. When I came across Julia Cameron advocating for avoiding all reading, it struck me as a potential (short-term) solution.
My general rule of thumb for diets has been about sustainability. When I tried a low-carb, high-fat diet last fall, I emphasized the noun definition of the word over the verb. I’m not dieting - the food I eat is my diet.
I went on my first low information diet a few years back and have looked back only only once or twice since, but this feels completely foreign. There’s no quality spectrum here through which some reading is deemed okay and other reading is not. It’s all off limits, or almost - Cameron highlights in a blog post that doing what you need to do for your job is acceptable.¹ (The irony reading about how to efficiently excise reading from my daily life was not lost on me.)
Despite past experience with similar reading diets, my first reaction upon reading the suggestion in the footer on my journal page this morning was one of fear. This one felt more complete, more restrictive. Disregard for a moment that I will try with hardly a second thought just about anything that has even an outside chance of improving my life - this one stopped me in my tracks.
The combination of the awareness that I might actually allow a fear of something that had not happened to me (and assuredly was not assured to happen to me) affect my behavior with the prospect of learning something about myself and my fears have motivated me enough to try to go a full week without reading for the first time in as long as I can remember.
I’ll be giving up one of my favorite pastimes. In exchange, I’m hopeful that this willful constraint can rekindle my creativity, refresh my energy and help me re-engage.
Written by Stephen Weiss who lives in Chicago with his wife, Kate, and dog, Finn. Follow him on Twitter!