Give me one week without.

Give me one week without.

give me one week without

In her book The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life, Twyla Tharp introduces the idea of “a week without” as a way to boost creativity. She writes,

People go on diets all the time. If they don’t like their weight, they stop eating certain foods. If their spending is out of control, they lock away their credit cards. If they need quiet time at home, they take the phone off the hook. These are all diets of one kind or another. Why not do the same for your creative health? Take a week off from clutter and distractions.

Tharp suggests taking a week-long break from the following things, and noticing what impact it has on your creativity:

1. Mirrors. After a week, you’ll be dying to see your own reflection.

2. Clocks. Let your internal clock rule instead of the time on your wrist or the wall.

3. Newspapers. (Not forever! Just for a week.)

4. Speaking. Tharp this “the perfect editor for the creative soul.” You’ll soon understand what’s actually worth saying–and what isn’t.

Tharp’s idea of “one week without” reminded me very much of Shauna Niequist’s discussion of feasting and fasting in Bread and Wine. The two are inextricably linked: “yin and yang, up and down, permission and discipline, necessary slides back and forth along the continuum of how we feed ourselves.”

I’ve been thinking about this concept a lot lately, ever since my last Whole 30 ended, and particularly as I continue to examine my long-term relationships with wine and sweets. Moderation is hard for me, but somehow thinking of my life as consisting of seasons of feasting and seasons of fasting rings truer (and sounds a lot more poetic, which doesn’t hurt).

Niequist writes,

I don’t want Thanksgiving without stuffing or Christmas without cookies and champagne. I don’t want to give up on our family tradition of deep-frying everything we can think of on New Year’s Eve. But I’m learning that feasting can only exist healthfully–physically, spiritually, and emotionally–in a life that also includes fasting.

(I wonder if the opposite is true: does fasting need feasting, as well?)

These two women–writing about very different things–have arrived at the same conclusion: that to appreciate what we have, we need to give it up–if only for a little while.

What have you chosen to give up for a time, and why? And if you’re feeling brave, tell us if there’s anything you’re thinking of giving up for a little while because you think it might do you some good.

30 comments | Comment

30 comments

  1. Jillian Kay says:

    I gave up TV for a while, and then one day I sat down for a 1/2 hour and watched a re-run of Gilligan’s Island and it was very entertaining. When I thought about it later I realized that I only enjoyed it because I hadn’t been doing that same thing every night. So now I make sure I only watch what I want on TV, no more channel surfing.

    • Jillian Kay says:

      And I meant to mention that I just finished Team of Rivals and I didn’t think it was her best. The Fitzgeralds and The Kennedys and No Ordinary Time were both much better in my opinion. It was still good, but having started with better I was a bit disappointed.

      • Anne says:

        Oh, thanks so much for the info! I’d just as soon start with a book where she really shines–thanks for the recommendation. (I was also thinking about her baseball book, maybe.)

        • Jillian Kay says:

          I liked the baseball book! It reminded me of how in my family we process all tragedies through the Sox. Oh so and so is sick/lost a job/in trouble? Yeah and the Red Sox lost again last night. Oh you’re having a bad day? Well, at least the Sox are on at 3. That kind of thing. I listened to it as an audio book and it worked well in that format.

        • Brenda Stafford says:

          I read the baseball book years ago and loved it! We’re about the same age so it reminded me of my youth.

    • Faigie says:

      Gilligans Island, wow, A blast form the past…now theres a group that lived with almost nothing. (except for Ginger of course, who goes on a 3 hour cruise you know without a whole line of evening gowns)

  2. Steph says:

    Sounds like I need to read Niequist’s book. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about my relationship with food and the ups and downs of being strict with what goes into my body and enjoying feast times around the holidays, etc.

    • Anne says:

      It’s so good! There’s so much there about her (and our) relationship with food. I wish I could shove copies into the hands of everyone I know. 🙂

  3. I think that the fact that we human beings tend to be happier and healthier when we alternate between feasting and fasting is not a coincidence; from a Biblical and liturgical point of view, this is how God created us. That’s why the Catholic and Orthodox Christian calendars contain periods of feasting and fasting throughout the Church year. Lent is the most obvious period of fasting (and I know that many other Christians also observe Lent), but we’re also encouraged to fast during Advent and to do something fast-like each Friday in remembrance of Christ’s death. Every Sunday is a feast day, so I’ve gotten into the habit of doing something special, like eating bacon, on Sunday mornings. My friends and I celebrate our baptismal days, patron saints’ feast days, as well as major feasts throughout the year like the Annunciation (March 25th), Pentecost (50 Days after Easter), the 12 days of Christmas, the Easter Octave (Easter Sunday through the following Sunday), etc. Ever since I started really taking the liturgical calendar serious and practicing feasting and fasting on a more regular basis, my life has become so much more interesting and beautiful–and fun! I just love that God knows us so well that he gave us, first through the Jewish liturgical calendar and then through the Christian liturgical calendar, such a rich calendar to guide us through our fasts and feasts.

    Currently, I’m doing a Whole 30 in solidarity with a friend. It’s been really great so far, but I’m only three days in. 🙂

    • Katherine says:

      I finish Whole30 tomorrow and it has been a great learning experience! And I am very excited to taste bread again, after “fasting” from it for the past month. 🙂 Very excited. Have I said “very” already? Because I’m very excited.

      Good luck with the rest of your Whole30!

    • Anne says:

      Yes, I think you’re so right about feasting and fasting being a natural rhythm. Wishing you all the good things for your period of fasting. 🙂

  4. Carrie says:

    I haven’t had TV in years. This month I’m doing a “No Spend” challenge. I haven’t read a newspaper or worn a watch in many years.

    I love feasting/fasting as a concept. Gotta get Bread & Wine!

  5. Anne says:

    Sugar. Sugar’s been on my mind again. We gave it up in a major a way a couple of Lents ago, and I was quite surprised at how unsatisfactory the Easter morning candy was after the fast. I even purchased Fannie Mae thinking it would be wonderful after forty days. It wasn’t. That and Facebook. I’m not spending my time purposely enough. Fortunately, Lent isn’t for a while still. Can’t help but think of Lent with this post!

    • Liz says:

      I agree. Candy doesn’t taste very good when I start eating it again. But then it sneaks up on me, and I’m reaching for the cookies at work again. I keep trying to figure out how to get back into fast-mode. I know willpower is said not to work well anymore, so I guess that’s why we start detoxes and fasts as groups, either within our churches or in an online community. It’s also interesting that the new diet craze in England is said to involve two days a week of fasting. When I did a detox, I learned that I need far less food than I regularly eat, so maybe doing that twice a week would keep my appetite at a reasonable level.

  6. Erica M. says:

    I’ve given up meat for Lent every year. It’s a common thing for people to do, but it has several benefits: my body has to get used to not having that amount of protein-part of the purpose of Lent in the Orthodox church is to cast off things we *think* we need in order to rely more on God; I learn different recipes and to eat things I normally wouldn’t; and that lamb soup after the midnight Easter service tastes *amazing*!

    The actual guidelines for fasting in the Orthodox church include giving up all dairy products as well as “anything with a backbone” (which basically means fish). I tried doing the entire thing one year and it was too much for me (I had to add some things back in to stave off a headache), but I think this year I’m going to try to give up cheese (which is basically my favorite thing ever). I guess we’ll see how this goes!

    • Anne says:

      I haven’t given anything up the past few years, but I think I’m going to this year. Thanks for prodding me to start thinking about it. 🙂

  7. Faigie says:

    Mirrors, I can do without (I have my older daughters around)Clocks…I have my little time at my computer, Newspapers….hardly ever read ’em.but speaking? fuggedabout it, you couldn’t shut me down if you tried. 🙂

  8. Betsy says:

    I don’t think I can go a whole week without it, but I’m thinking about “fasting” from turning on my computer once a week. I did it two weeks ago and had such an effective day. It would help to boost my productivity, make me more present to my family, and somehow be more open to God. That last one may sound crazy, but the computer brings so many voices, so much information into our brains, it kind of crowds other voices out!

    BTW, I so appreciate your blog. I was thinking about it just this morning. I live overseas and I feel like it helps me stay in touch with American culture. (You’ve introduced me to several books, too. :-)) Thank you so much.

    • Anne says:

      Betsy, that’s something I need to do! Not for a whole week, but I do love the idea of a weekly technology Sabbath. We back off our devices on the weekends, but I don’t put anything away entirely. I think it would be worth giving it a try.

      Thanks so much for the kind words. 🙂

  9. Louisa says:

    I loved the book “Sabbath in the Suburbs,” by Mary Ann McKibben Dana, an Episcopal (? I might have the denomination wrong) minister living in Northern VA, with her high-tech husband and three kids. Very honest, disarming, funny. She experiments with various lengths of fasts, from TV and the Internet to other types, and explores ways for the family to let go of things that can become addictive. Highly recommended.

  10. Amanda Roby says:

    I’ve just decided very recently that starting in April (after our move), I’ll be getting myself and my kids on a four-weeks-on, one-week-off schedule. My oldest is enrolled in First Steps, which provides him Occupational and Physical Therapy, and with two disabilities, I’m in and out of doctor’s offices a lot. We end up with appointments two or three days a week. I’ve decided that I’ll schedule appointments as usual for four weeks, but on the fifth week, I’ll do my best not to schedule any appointments. We may visit with friends, but no major running around will occur. We haven’t put it into practice yet, but I have high hopes.

    Also, for Lent this year I’ve decided to give up the phone during my oldest’s nap. Since he still naps (or at least is in his room having a good ol’ time) for three hours on average, this is a good chunk of time for me. Also, this is when I am in the habit of chatting with friends. I plan to “put off” answering the phone or making calls or texts, and “put on” prayer whenever the urge to talk arrives, or the phone rings.

    • Anne says:

      That sounds brilliant. There was a lot I loved about our First Steps days, but they were kind of exhausting, too.

      I hope your Lent plan is a life-giving one.

  11. Marcia says:

    Several years ago our youth pastor encouraged the kids to give up something in order to create more space for God, things like Facebook, computer, video games, TV, etc. I decided this year to give up watching The Today Show. Some mornings I just sit there for 2-3 hours watching this program. I am going to use that morning time to read a devotional on Christ’s passion and to spend more time in prayer. So far – 3 days with no Today Show!

  12. Brenda Stafford says:

    I wasn’t really thinking about lent, but after reading an article on the negatives of sugar, I’m going to try to give it up without stressing about it. If I just get rid of added sugars, it will be a huge step forward.

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