The Artist’s Way: Reading Detox

"Loco" A wire sculpture by Brooke Burton
“Loco” A wire sculpture by Brooke Burton

Ever feel like your creative well has run dry?  Sometimes wonder if your artistic muse has packed her bags and high tailed it to a town far away?

If you’ve ever worried you might never have another great idea in you, I’ve discovered a sure-fire solution to a blocked creative process: Give up reading and social media for a week.

Get Quiet

Julia Cameron, the author of The Artist Way–a twelve week program that mends the artist and their process–suggests that the best way to get your creative ju-ju back is to detoxify from our modern day information overload. Unplug the TV, step away from the internet, put down the magazines, and stop reading other people’s words for seven whole days.

Though the idea of giving up reading and social media may seem impossible, I’m here to tell you that it is achievable and–once you get through the first wave of detoxification–incredibly rewarding. After just a day of getting away from my usual media inputs, I began to see immediate results. The mental space once dedicated to Twitter messages, Facebook status updates, or obsessive internet surfing–became free real estate for creativity. Inspiration flowed through me without interruption. Without the distraction of the many iPhone apps, obsessive internet searches, and other reading distractions, things began to change. I became an observer and a witness–rather than a distracted bystander. My photographs got better. When my iPhone buzzed with notifications, I ignored them. I avoided my computer, for fear of illicit Google searches. I sat on my hands and waited until the urge to check Facebook and Twitter for updates passed. I replaced bathroom reading material–Dwell, Saveur, and Bon Appetit Magazine–with photo collections of my favorite artists.

I became a clear channel for imagination. I began doing sculpture again. Sketching. I avoided my computer–for fear I’d instinctively start looping through favorite sites–and began to fill pages of a notebook with stories and drawings. I went to a gallery opening and heard an artist speak about his work. Job opportunities began to come in. I talked to a curator who wants to put my wire sculptures in an upcoming show.

I don’t know if I’ve ever been more happy and creative.

The United States of One, a Dollar Bill wire sculpture
The United States of One, a Dollar Bill wire sculpture

For the minimal cost of Cameron’s book and a few hours a week of work, myself and five friends have seen seen incredible results since we started the program of self-discovery and creative homework. We’ve had call backs on auditions, prolific writing jags, written new songs, gotten unexpected job opportunities, and returned to beloved art forms long ago neglected. Individually and as a group, we’re blazing a heroic journey through self-discovery, creativity, and artistic vulnerability.

So if you’ve ever felt more than a little bit stuck, try doing some contrary action and walk away from all the things you tell yourself are feeding your creative well.

Turn off the computer.

Stop listening to talk radio.

Leave that Goggle machine alone.

Tell your friends you’re on a remote island and can’t check in on Facebook and Twitter for a few days.

Then, in the silence, pull out a notebook. Light a candle. Grab a sharp pencil or a really sexy pen. And then, start writing.  You’ll find out your muse never left you. You just couldn’t hear her above all that noise.

Share: Have you ever given up social media for your artistic process? If so, what happened for you?

3 comments

  1. Katia

    Hi Brooke! There must be some synchonisity going on right now :). I just finished that chapter/week from Artist’s way, so I can totally relate to what you’re saying. It’s been a tough week but as I moved forward it just felt great I finally found time for creative self.

    • Food Woolf

      Katia, so good to hear you can relate! Good for you for giving such a great gift to yourself. The Artist’s Way is completely transforming my life! I can’t wait to find out what’s going to happen next!
      Best,
      Brooke

  2. Julie

    This is great advice, and something I’ve been thinking I need to do for several (non-productive) years now…Think I’ll give it a try…starting tomorrow. ;-)

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