When I read Julia Cameron’s seminal book The Artists’s Way, she introduced me to the concept of an Artist’s Date: a block of time set aside to nurture your creative inner artist.
This is how Julia Cameron describes it:
The Artist Date is a once-weekly, festive, solo expedition to explore something that interests you. The Artist Date need not be overtly “artistic” — think mischief more than mastery. Artist Dates fire up the imagination. They spark whimsy. They encourage play. Since art is about the play of ideas, they feed our creative work by replenishing our inner well of images and inspiration. When choosing an Artist Date, it is good to ask yourself, “what sounds fun?” — and then allow yourself to try it.
In normal times, Artist Dates were small adventures pursued by yourself outside your normal environment: poking around in a thrift shop, visiting a museum or art gallery, or trying a new restaurant. COVID has changed our choices, but definitely not eliminated them. You just have to be imaginative and remember what is at the core: fun; new to you; sensory and solo.
Because our creative brain is a sensory brain, anything that stimulates the senses or fires up the imagination will work. Have an adventure; push yourself out of your comfort zone. We all accept play is crucial for a child’s development, it is also beneficial for adults. Play can add joy to life, relieve stress, supercharge learning, and connect you to others and the world around you. Play can also make work more productive and pleasurable.
As a writer, be mindful and consider how you might describe what you experience in words. Notice physical details and the emotions that stir within you. Make notes of your discoveries to use later.
Listen and move
Try listening to music you don’t usually listen to or you’ve never listened to before. A new instrument, a new singer, a new cultural sound. a podcast that seems “too frivolous”. Spotify is your friend.
Or go down memory lane. Dig out old CDs that haven’t seen the light of day since your youth. Go online and find songs of a particular decade. Create a playlist of old favourites. Listen to your parents’ era music, or your children’s or your character’s.
Dance like no one’s watching. Sing like no one’s listening. Whistle.
Take a walk or a hike in a new place and listen for as many sounds as you can: birds, falling water, rustling leaves, chattering squirrels—or clang of garbage cans being collected, sirens, traffic, people, dogs…
Do something that involves physical movement that you’ve never tried or haven’t done in years: jump rope, whirl like a dervish, dig out the old hula hoop, do a new yoga sequence, balance-walk along a raised structure, make snow angels, go tobogganing, hug a tree.
Try a new dinner recipe, make a favourite soup from scratch, or bake bread. Get really adventurous and make yogurt or sauerkraut or preserves.
Attempt a simple carpentry project, try beading or macramé. Join an online paint night.
Play with LEGO or play dough or wax crayons. Make a blanket fort and read a book in it. How does that feel? Silly? Good!
Colour some pictures. What memories does that bring up?
Make a vision board, or an inspiration board, or a collage of the way you feel today. Try a craft, not because it has purpose, but because it’s fun.
Do something, anything, that is usually considered a waste of time or an indulgence: lie on your back and watch clouds; take a bath with scented candles or scented soaps or exploding bath bombs or bubbles; re-read a favourite children’s book.
Pop open your favourite beverage or drink that third coffee without guilt. Mindfully cream your hands and feet or experiment with new hairstyles. Dress up in your favourite colour—all over, all in—just for a day. Dress down in your most favourite rattiest outfit with no judgement. Purge your closet. Guys, don’t bother shaving for the day.
Binge watch a new TV series or a movie you’ve been meaning to watch. Watch a movie you want to watch that you wouldn’t admit to anyone you wanted to watch it.
Have a tech-free afternoon. Sleep in a hammock. Snoop on virtual house tours on the real estate sites. Eat a whole bar of chocolate.
Expand your mind
Sign up for a course in a new genre or poetry or stamp collecting or genealogy. Randomly follow a writer in another genre on Twitter and engage to learn new perspectives, or join a group on Facebook that is totally new to you, like astronomy.
Make a list of 100 things that make you happy. Start a journal of the 50 things you want your grandchildren to know about you. Write a bucket list and illustrate it or scrapbook it.
Take virtual museum tours, watch virtual opera or ballet. Use apps to walk the Camino or Cabot’s trail.
Artist’s dates break the routine and unlock creativity and optimism. In these times they can give us a sense of fun to help fight the confinement many of us may be feeling. I did a quick count, and I’ve listed over 50 things you could try. You could no doubt come up with 50 more.
Artist Dates are not high art. They are meant to be fun. Ask yourself, “What sounds playful? What does my inner child want to do? What am I drawn to that others might label a waste of time, too silly, too frivolous?” Try doing that.
These three greats say it best:
“The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.” Albert Einstein
“We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.” George Bernard Shaw
“The creation of something new is not accomplished by the intellect but by the play instinct.” Carl Jung