What I learned from a week of no reading

For the past few weeks, I’ve been working on The Artist’s Way course with a friend of mine. It’s a 12-week course that’s meant to unblock your inner creative voice and allow you to feel more creative in all aspects of your life. The course typically consists of a weekly artist date (something you do to treat your inner artist), a few exercises, and reading a chapter of The Artist’s Way each week.

In the fourth week, however, was a reading deprivation week. In other words, no reading for work or for leisure. The idea behind this is that artists and creatives have a tendency to overwhelm themselves with information and with other people’s creations instead of taking the time to be creative and produce art (or blog posts, in my case) of their own.

I made up a set of rules for myself to follow during this week of no reading to make it clearer for myself to follow: no scrolling on Instagram, Twitter, or LinkedIn; no watching videos on YouTube or watching movies or TV shows; no reading books for pleasure; no reading blog posts or articles for work; and no researching for work-related tasks.

As I suspected, this week was really hard for me — my work and one of my favorite hobbies revolve around reading and it can be incredibly difficult to carve reading out of my life. Through the struggle, I did learn some things…

Me not being in a bookstore.

I can get things done!

Obviously, my main job is to read things and to correct them, so not reading for work can be nearly impossible. I planned this reading deprivation week in between editing projects so that I didn’t have any paid reading work to do during that time.

There are still plenty of things that I can do for myself and my own business in these spaces in between projects, but it often doesn’t feel as productive as it did during my reading deprivation week: I started working at a new co-working space, I wrote two blog posts (including this one), I translated my website content into Dutch, I got feedback on the first draft of my website… Who knew not reading could make time for all of these things?

There’s more space to do scary things!

I spend a lot of time procrastinating things at work by reading (emails, articles, researching business strategies, etc.). Since I can sometimes find it scary to put my own creative work into the world and to promote myself, I often spend lots of time researching (or “researching”) before I take action on things. For example, instead of reaching out to people in my field to get coffee, I have spent a lot of time creating a detailed spreadsheet of people that I would eventually like to ask to go get coffee (including their contact information, what date I tentatively want to email them, and even a draft email to send to them).

This week, however, I didn’t skip a beat as I emailed a few people(!) I don’t know about meeting up for coffee.

I have a lot more free time than I thought!

I got really bored during reading deprivation week. I realized that I often don’t even get to the point of getting bored because I just pick up a book or scroll through Instagram as soon as I sit down after work or after dinner. Although I really wanted to read after the first few days, I did think it was a good practice to observe my typical daily habits and how I automatically dive into a book when I have spare time instead of thinking about alternatives (like going for a walk in the park or asking my husband about his day or playing with my cat).

Life without reading is really boring!

You can only spend so much time going for a walk in the park, asking your husband about his day, and playing with your cat.

Reading is a really important way for me to calm down and relax (and I can get really grumpy without it).

Spending time observing my habits was helpful, and it can often be nice to try to be more present in daily life, but there is also value in having a pleasant escape in the world of a book. I had started at a new workspace in the same week as my reading deprivation and not having a world to escape to sometimes gave me too much room to overthink all the interactions that I had had with my new colleagues.

Maybe I have little self-restraint because I broke my reading deprivation several times.

I gave up at least four different times throughout the week. Some of the things that I was doing for work were reading-adjacent (like translating some of my website content or posting things on Instagram) and made the line between reading and not reading more vague, which made it more tempting to give up and read or scroll through Instagram anyway.

I also needed a break after about four or five days and watched some videos because I was tired, it was hot, and I had already done some scary things for work, so my energy was spent. However, I was also told that maybe I should say that I have quite a lot of self-restraint since I only broke my reading deprivation a handful of times instead of giving it up altogether. It’s all about perspective!

Overall, I’d say that the reading deprivation week gave me some insight into my daily habits and my tendency to bury myself in a book before thinking about what would be nice to do in that moment, as well as helped me to complete some more tasks for work that I tend to procrastinate.

But I don’t think I’ll be doing another reading deprivation week any time soon…