Reading my alma mater’s alumni magazine makes me feel bad about myself. I makes it seem as though all of my fellow alums are doing brave and amazing things — some of them at extremely young ages — while I sit here spinning my wheels. Web sites (blogs especially) also make me feel bad about myself. They present a world that is overflowing with creative people and all of them, including the hobbyists with non-art day jobs are more creative and prolific than me. No one will ever hire me in such a world.
It’s bad. I’ve been spending nearly two hours every morning reading about other people’s projects, ideas and successes, bookmarking the ones I want to post on this blog or try some weekend 37 years from now. I go back to maybe one in five hundred of these pages. The rest just waste my time, cause feelings of inadequacy, and make me feel both overwhelmed and behind the times when I review them later. I get so frustrated and tired with my work as a result that after dinner I just want to veg out. Then it’s another day wasted, another reason to feel bad.
These feelings only got worse when I turned 29 last week. Only one more year to accomplish all the things you thought you’d have in the bag by 30! I decided enough is enough, and A. and I have been on a “media diet” as of Monday. I’ve been wanting to try something like this for months, but what finally got me going was having a plan already laid out (in Timothy Ferris’ book, The Four-Hour Workweek), and having someone to do it with me.
Here’s how it works: for seven days, we avoid all non-fiction media and severely limit our intake of entertainment media. In other words, no magazines, newspapers, blogs, NPR, Facebook or Twitter and only one hour per day of fiction reading, fictional TV or video games. There is no limit on music or interpersonal correspondence. We are allowed to post things to blogs, Facebook, Twitter, etc. and to write non-fiction, since the point of this whole exercise is to make us more productive and confident. We are also allowed to use the web for project-specific research (like collecting the links for posts) but no idle surfing.
We’re about halfway through now and I’ll admit, it’s difficult. We watched the premiers of Weeds and Nurse Jackie tonight so now I can’t touch the Wii game I’ve been wanting to play until tomorrow. I can’t click any of the links to funny/interesting stories that my friends e-mail me and I had to put down the copy of Omnivore’s Dilemma I just borrowed after wanting to read it for years.
Next week when this is over, I will definitely try to schedule my media intake a little better. I will probably allow myself two hours of “leisure media” per day and go back to setting NPR as my default station in the car. But I will not open my Google reader every day. I will open it only once or twice a week, to look for specific things I can use in a post that same day. No more saving things that “just seem cool” for some nebulous future purpose like a digital pack-rat.
Have you ever tried some sort of media diet? How did you limit your intake and what happened afterwards? Did it work?