Riding the Dragon: Tips for Prepping for a Media Fast

This is part of my work in the Julia Cameron Artist’s Way series. The work this time is from the book the Artist’s Way at Work: Riding the Dragon. The responses are self-examinations and assessments based on work through a daily series of exercises. While I do keep some material offline as it can be very personal and jarring, I often opt to be fairly open about my experiences, both positive and negative.

Pink Heals Fire Truck Emblem - Parada del Sol - Scottsdale
by Al_HikesAZ - not directly related, but ideas that work within the artist's way paths, too.

Every so often, even I rebel against the wisdom of Julia. It’s allowed – critical thinking is not the same as rampant criticism, especially since I can honestly say I have done it her way in the past. My experience differs a bit from her, and my day-to-day differs drastically in some respects. Your experience might match Cameron’s better than mine.

People who have read this blog for years know that I’m of the school of thought that it’s more important to DO morning pages than it is to do them in the morning, and as much as I like and respect Ms. Cameron’s life outlook, there are passages from Write Yourself Right that have left me convinced that she needs a sit-down with Dr. Linda Bacon. We all need practice releasing ourselves from self-judgement, and our bodies is the hardest place to do that.

So when she recommends the media fast, and she means EVERYTHING – computer, emails, TV, radio, music, books, every go-to of luxury culture you can imagine – I can say the following:

1. It does work. I have done it – AND IT WORKS. Your life actually improves.

2. Thanks to the current economic climate, there are way too many people that could get fired for that degree of abstinence. As much as Cameron really, really emphasizes, insists, demands that people abstain, it really just plain won’t be possible for everyone that has something significant to lose, especially now that there’s no such thing as a secure job in the United States if you’re not part of a certain 1% we all keep hearing about.

If you’re in a job where Internet access isn’t required, you’re in luck. You actually CAN do this, 100%. But for those who have to take the 80% cut back, I’d like to suggest the following tactics:

A)Plan for a media fast like you would plan for a vacation. Schedule it. Set up your vacation response on your email (almost all programs have something like that in setting somewhere.) Screen phone calls. Those of us with Smartphones can get filter programs that can temporarily filter out phone calls from certain numbers, so that coworker that tends to ignore boundaries can be duly ignored after hours.

B)Practice seeing phone calls, knocks on the door, etc. as options – and not as commands. I do not always answer my doorbell, and I have strict rules about when I answer my phone. If people who know I am not a phone person insist on dragging out their time with me (if you live locally and have two hours to talk to me on the phone, you have time to get a cup of coffee with me where we can talk face to face) then I will screen their calls but not necessarily filter them.

C)If you would get fired for not checking your email, consider filters. Not only do they keep you from responding to emails that do not need your attention, they can help you focus on your tasks more efficiently as you work through your different filters.

D)You CAN cut back. I think that my #1 bad habit was coming home from my workday, flipping on the television and then zoning out. This is the perfect time to do a second (or first) set of morning pages, to vent frustrations or to make a plan for dealing with what you have before you in the evening.

E)Plan a little. If you have some ideas for what you’re going to do instead, it makes it easier to forgo media. Maybe you plan to meditate, or to handwrite/storyboard your next piece. Give yourself 3-4 activities to try on each day, and see what engages you the most.

I’ve only succeeded at the media fast once, and made it three days on the next round. I don’t advise trying it in winter if you live where there’s “weather” and limited mass transit.



4 thoughts on “Riding the Dragon: Tips for Prepping for a Media Fast”

  1. I have done this and it not only works amazingly well, but you return from it realizing how much you can filter out permanently.

  2. I’m stalking you from Absolute Write ;). Great post.

    Just the thought of a media fast like that almost gives me a panic attack! LOL! I could give up one of those things, or maybe even a couple, but all of them? Heaven forbid! That would be worse giving up chocolate and we all know what that would mean…

    I haven’t heard of the book you mentioned, but you have got me curious. I’ll check it out. But like you, I’m going to disagree with her on the mediafast! (breathe, Leslie!)

  3. The 1st Artist’s Way book just calls for a reading fast (presumably this excludes street signs, menus etc) I considered doing A.W. in college, but after seeing that part I realized I couldn’t unless I scheduled it. I have done morning pages a couple of times, I’m thinking of trying the program.

    I usually do a semi-informal media fast on vacations anyway- no internet access, and even if there is I need a break from it, newspapers, TV etc. Thru much of the Bush years I avoided news when I could b/c it was too depressing.
    I still read though- I am an incurable bookworm- but I think I could give up reading for a while (aside from really necessary stuff) and it’d free up a lot more time for creative things.

  4. I remember that – what edition was it? I’m wondering if it got more strict in later editions. As it was, just cutting out the reading made it very clear to me how much space I really had to work. Nowadays, I think that a fast is too much for me.

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