The Web, Creativity, and The Artist’s Way

by | April 3, 2015 |

In a recent blog Jemima Kiss writes, “The web has stolen my creativity. What I need is the time and space to think.”

First off, Jemima, no one forced you to log on. You gave your creativity away.

However, let me soften the scold. I get it, Jemima: the web is unlike drugs or gambling or alcohol and more like food and shopping. Drugs, gambling, and alcohol are not necessary. Food and shopping are. So is the web. It is not possible – and likely not healthy – to totally cut yourself off from this valuable resource.

Just as not all people who eat food become obese and not all people who shop become shopaholics, it’s possible to use the web without getting lost in it. But how?

First, let’s think about the web. It’s a scrolling index. It’s a good place to get information. It’s not a good place to get well-developed ideas in extended arguments. It isn’t designed to make you question, evaluate, compare, contrast, and/or understand any thing or any issue in a deep way. Jemima notes as much when she writes that the web “isn’t designed to offer the optimum environment for you to lose yourself in a thorough, well-researched piece about the health industry in the developing world.”

She then asks, “If an optimum reading experience were the priority, how different would Facebook feel?”

Her answer: It would probably feel like a book.

Now guess who has just started a book club? That would be: Mark Zuckerbeg.

So even the founder of Facebook knows there’s nothing like a good book to fire the imagination and fuel deep thinking.

The logic of Jemima’s blog is that we should spend less time on the web and more time reading a good book. I can only agree. However, the recommendation to read a good book is premature.

First, comes detox.

Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way is a wonderful book for anyone struggling with creativity. It’s a 12-week, 12-step program. One of the weeks requires a reading fast. No reading for a week – no blogs, no books, no newspapers, no magazines, no nothing. Cameron’s idea is that blocked artists need to drain their brains of other people’s stories, ideas, and thoughts in order to get back in touch with their own. I extend the idea to include movies, TV shows, YouTube, etc. And I repeat: for an entire week.03

I’m a voracious reader. I’m an academic. It’s my job to read. I love narratives. I have done such a reading fast twice. Let me tell you how difficult it is. I can also assure you that by about day four, things start to look up. You do get to hear your own thoughts. You do find there are other things to do.

Take walks. Have great conversations. Draw. Paint. Clean messy drawers and closets.  Adopt a highway and pick up litter. Volunteer at an animal shelter. Go to your church, mosque, synagogue. Go to yoga. Meditate. The list is endless.

The key is to reconnect to yourself and your environment, which includes interacting with people in the flesh and blood as well as with grass and trees. But first you have to completely disconnect from what is paralyzing your creativity, and  in order to disconnect you might need help. There’s no better resource to turn to, as I’ve said, than The Artist’s Way.

When you get to the week where you give up reading, let your friends and family know you won’t be involved in posting, texting, tweeting, or email. You won’t be reading my blog – or anyone’s blog. How you negotiate the workplace will depend on what you do for a living. It won’t be easy, but you will see a difference. Mental chatter will die down. Your own thoughts, feelings, opinions, and desires will have the space to flower.

My hope is that when you do resume your normal reading and web activities, you will find it easier to avoid being sucked into creativity-sucking vortex that is the web.


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This post was written by Julie Andresen

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