Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Seven Days of Media Deprivation by Emma Laird Craig - Can you do it over the Christmas period?

In “The Artist’s Way at Work” Julia Cameron suggests ‘few techniques function as a stronger jump start to original thinking than a week of media deprivation...our cultural addiction to the media has become deeply embedded, pervasive, and very hard to escape.’

Recently this young woman about town (as apple addicted as the next) said yes to the calling to go on a self-imposed media detox for one week.  The terms and blurting protestations were as follows:

  1. NO READING. Yes, that includes worthy endeavours such as novels, autobiographies, & self-development.  (Damn! I just had a new-book-buying-binge.)
  2. No newspapers or magazines, trashy or highbrow; even dart your eyes from commercials on the tube escalator; no peering over someone’s shoulder to read their Metro. (I can handle that though I shall miss the horoscopes in the supplements, ahem.)
  3. No social media. (Risk being out of the ‘loop’.  Ah heck, my relationship with it is conflicted anyway.)
  4. No movies. (But movies are pleasurable and harmless, right?)
  5. No TV. (But you’re an actor, that’s blasphemous and absurd.)
  6. No email. (Say what?  But I couldn’t possibly…insert extremely valid reason here.)
  7. No surfing the web. (But I HAVE to book my holiday flights and I don’t have a P.A. to pass the buck to.)
  8. No talk radio, no music with lyrics!  (Now we’re just getting puritan.)
Day One:

I am feeling liberated and empowered as if I am on holiday and I wonder is this the real reason I love going on holiday?  When I was in Mallorca earlier this year the info overload in my inbox and career concerns were blissfully irrelevant when breaking a croissant in the village. 

It was quite satisfying to announce to my Facebook community and regular email chains that I am “out of the office”.  Relieved, I am not available for any agendas and demands other than my own.  A downside seems I have to be present on the bus.  

First hurdle: I meet my friend for coffee to chat dreams of Bali and she has written a wonderful two-week itinerary for me.  Ah.  How do I engage gratefully with her and avert my eyes for fear of the Word Devil?  OK, OK, I looked at it.  I could have confessed to my current challenge but chose to smile sweetly.

Day Two:

I’ve spotted The 50 Shades of Grey Classical Soundtrack on Spotify.  Strictly instrumental and in foreign languages that for once I am glad I don’t understand, it is connecting me to a touch of the epic whilst I work.  I am overcome with the drive to write and organise and I like it. 

Sometimes writing feels flowing or like I am jamming with a jazz band and sometimes it feels excruciatingly muscular like how I imagine childbirth to be.  Whatever the nature of this particular surge it just must be done.  I am starting to see how much material I consume produced by other interesting people and the balance needs to be redressed.  It’s time for me to produce into this vacuum.  Out of the numerous procrastination shaving strategies, I might have just struck gold.

Day Three:

What’s going on?  I haven’t woken up on the wrong side of the bed or given up caffeine so why do I feel like a raging bull?  This is so unfair I was enjoying the pink cloud but now I just want to go on iPlayer!  Just 3 minutes of instant gratification please Mr. Commitment Policeman…

I invoke Goethe (whether he did in fact write this or not according to the academics): "Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back-- Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth that ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now." 

Day Four:

News of a death of a loved one in the evening sends me thinking I deserve a little late night internet-love.  It’s not as creepy as it sounds.  This unpredictable turn of events shows me just how zoning out through media is an established coping mechanism.  Timely.  I crumble in bed about 11pm and watch an “it’s so bad it’s so good” reality TV show set in a certain South West London borough.  As if that’s going to assuage the sadness or bring the person back?  Hey, we all have our vices, right?  Anyway, when did this become a moral issue as well as a health and creativity issue?  I’m cutting myself some slack.   

Day Five:

Day five already?  I still haven’t touched movies, books, newspapers, and social media but now I’ve broken the camel’s back once…you know how it is; I start to negotiate terms.  Apparently this could be a reflection on my relationship with authority. 

The Oprah Winfrey Network TV hosting leading spiritual thought conversations and documenting healing breakthroughs in Chicago now doesn’t count.  Or even if it’s a lapse in the mission, it’s my dirty secret.  Eckhart Tolle proceeded to expound the merits of being “in the moment”.  It was an ironic waste of my time since I was putting down media infiltration precisely to be more available to creative inspiration “in the moment”.  I must voice my moments not consume someone else’s or I will never be on Oprah!

Day Six:

My nervous system is recalibrating and thanking me for the breathing space.  I am convinced that this is an excellent cost effective form of “stress-management”; one of the key mindset skills of a top stock-market trader according to Alistair Crooks, author of ‘The Madness of Money’.  I may not be a top trader but I want to be a ‘top performer’ in my life not burying myself in books about other people’s lives.

Day Seven:

It’s funny how depriving myself of media input has made me streamline my time into really useful and fun avenues like a trip to the osteopath or seeing Franko B’s Performance Art festival ‘Untouchable’ in deepest darkest Camberwell; or ‘hanging out’ with treasured friends as in ye olden days at university when social experience was valued higher than reading or getting ahead.


I have been instant-chat-happy on F-book complete with flirty emoticons and I am wondering if it’s affecting my ability to write complete sentences.  Much is the woe of the current English language evolution. 

What was the cost of this deprivation?  I nearly missed out on a surprise birthday party via F-book but was alerted just in time.  The only ‘loss’ has been beneficial: I have unsubscribed from multiple cheap flight mailing lists and other such colourful and unnecessary sells on how to live and consequently re-claimed the valuable headspace and confidence that I can do just fine without them.  

When I suggested the 7 Day Media Detox to a friend she responded with ‘I would love to but I just can't do it unfortunately! As I just have to be online.’ 

Consider yourself well and truly dared.


Emma Laird Craig is a British actress, freelance writer, and Co-Founder of The LabRats Theatre, a New York City based company of multi-dispilinary artists developing new work for theatre and film.  Their third theatrical season is fast approaching in February 2013 with "The Rise and Fall of a Teenaged CyberQueen" by Lindsay Joy; the story of a flawed American family uprooted and unhinged by the rapid pace of online chat rooms and video feeds.

Emma trained at Central School of Speech & Drama and the Moscow Arts Theatre after reading English Literature at the University of Edinburgh.  In London she is developing "The Venus Show" for TV drawing on the trials and tribulations of professional young women brought up on Jane Austen, brit-pop, and dreams.  You can follow her on Twitter @MissLeFlay.