Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Reading Deprivation

Sharon Wildwind

Since I’ve written about writing being a time battle for the last three weeks, I figured this past week it was time to walk the walk.

So for my walk—more about another kind of walk later—I chose reading deprivation, which I’d mentioned last week as one of the techniques recommended in Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way.

Beginning last Tuesday, I set out to find out if I could survive a reading-reduction week. Okay, so reduction isn't the absolute no reading for a week that Ms. Cameron recommended, but I figured even a little less reading was a start.

I have a lot of boxes set up to capture and sort incoming mail, so very few messages actually stay in my Inbox. Those that do are usually from family and friends. I promised myself that for 7 days, I would read only my Inbox and one other box, which was likely to contain time-sensitive material. I’d allow all of the other messages to languish for a week in their variously-assigned mail boxes.

I’m afraid I’ve been treating book reading as an indulgence. On a day off, if I want to lay down in the middle of the afternoon and read for hours, I do just that. Only lately, I think reading got a bit out of hand. So I proposed to the reading fairies that live in my head a limit of 60 minutes of book reading per day.

They counter-offered 60 minutes per book with a daily limit of three books.

We compromised on 30 minutes per book with a daily limit of three books.

The first thing I noticed on Tuesday morning was that my time spent every morning reading e-mail dropped from an-hour-and-a-half to fifteen minutes.

The second thing I noticed was that I was getting a lot of newsletters and electronic flyers that had come along because I’d once bought a product from a company, or I had a shopper’s card, etc. Every time one of those newsletters/flyers came in during the week, I unsubscribed.

The third thing I noticed was that if I didn’t start reading at 7:00 PM and keep reading until bedtime (or beyond), I had a lot more time in the evening.

What did I do with all of that found time?

I took a 30-minute walk every day. That produced a lot of side benefits. My hip stopped hurting. I enjoyed beautiful weather. I found two objects to use in art projects. I actually had time for a conversation with the guy who works at the art supply store. I slept better.

I made a gift for a family member.

I spent more time writing in my journal.

I thought up new characters for a stand-alone mystery.

I did critiques for two other writers. I would have done the critiques anyway, but I felt I could devote a little more time to them instead of hurrying through them.

I played with Zentangles. If you like doodling, check them out. They are even more relaxing that playing computer solitaire.

I realized it didn’t matter if I took four days to read a book instead of only two.

By the end on the week, I’d collected 207 unread messages and no one had been on my case about missing something, or not replying. When I went through those messages, it was amazing how much of what was in them was either outdated or just not interesting. I also unsubscribed to an additional three newsletters that I’d outgrown.

Two must-read boxes stood out like they were lit with neon lights. Now I had a better idea of why they were important to me and I could make an informed choice to go back to reading them daily.

Oh, yeah, did I mention I also read four books and enjoyed them immensely. Even the reading fairies in my head were happy.

So now I’m going to try reading my Inbox and those two essential newsletters daily and everything else twice a week. I really like all of this new-found time.

Happy Canada Day to those of you north of the border and Happy 4th of July to those of you south of the border. Me? I’ll be celebrating both days, hopefully by doing something other than reading.


Mary@GigglesandGuns said...

How wonderful! I do something similar with mail boxes and blogs. Who made us feel that that electronic mail was so important.

Giggles and Guns

Julia Buckley said...

Sharon, what a great post. I've been walking, too, and it's so true that one must find a balance between the reading, the e-mailing, the writing, and the living of life itself.

Anonymous said...

Hi, Mary and Julia,

I agree. Who the heck convinced us that e-mail was so important? And aren't we smart to buck the trend!

Sandra Parshall said...

I've also been trying to cut way back on nonessential e-mail and other online reading. Getting a discussion list in digest form helps a lot, because by the time you see a post you might have responded to, a dozen other people have already made the same points you would make.

Lonnie Cruse said...

I need to try that except I've already trimed as much as I can from my inbox, sigh. Maybe I should try more? Hugs, L

Anonymous said...

Lonnie, it may be that you've already achieved Pristine Inbox. There comes a point where no more tinkering needs to be done.

Sandra, I agree with you. I like digests for the same reason. The two things that still drive me crazy are people who quote a huge message, sometimes containing several replies as well as the original message, just to add "Me, too." to the message.

And while I'm a big fan of people supporting one another for all kinds of positive and negative events, I wish they would do it privately. If I were the one getting the congrats or the we're thinking of you support, It would mean so much more to me to come in a private e-mail. And where the lists give a choice of "Reply to sender," or "Reply to group," it's just a matter of checking the first option instead of the second.