HUH? You mean the fruit? Not a fan!
Oohh, you mean dinner? No thanks!
What? The “4” assigned to today?
No! An Artist’s Date –
(Well, now that you asked – When was the last time you had a date of any kind?)
As Julia Cameron puts it, there are two key tools to sustained creativity: the morning pages and the artist date.
I’m going to delve into the latter – you know – cuz I can! And because I flipped a coin to decide which project I wanted to do and that one won!
Oh – and because I had an outing this past weekend that “kinda” counts and it was glorious!
Let’s dive in.
Maybe you’ve heard of the concept before. Before you can fire up the engine, you have to fill the tank!
So – I’ll ask the question again – When was the last time you made time for yourself and your creative pursuits? I mean…when did you really gave it some undivided attention? I don’t mean the “duty” of going in and doing something in your studio. Yes, that’s good, but when did you last FEED your creativity? Nurture it? Give it some good vibes – on purpose?
AHA! Now we’re getting somewhere! Been a long time, huh?
The good news is that by doing that, you’re opening yourself up to insight, inspiration, and guidance from your elusive muse!
Alright, so what is it exactly?
The Artist’s Date
Julia Cameron describes the artist’s date as a time each week especially committed to nurturing your creative awareness, your inner artist. It’s basically a play date, or excursion, for you to go on and it’s preplanned and non-negotiable! You actually put on the calendar the same way you would a doctor’s appt or the washer repair guy!
Now in “Julia” terms, it all you! No one else is allowed along for the ride. No interlopers, no tag-alongers, no children, and no “I have to stop by the dry cleaners anyway” type of thing.
You see, your creativity isn’t yet another “inconvenience” that you drag along because I said you had to.
The nurturing of your creativity should take on the same importance as that doctor’s appt. There’s a difference though. It’s good for you but it’s also FUN. Can’t say that about the doctor’s appt, can you?
I’m A Rule Breaker
The rule states that you are to go it alone. No spouses, children, or companions. The date is between you and yourself. I must admit that sometimes I disobey! Now hear me out! Sometimes I go with a like-minded creative pal because the insight we get, and the appreciation for what we see together, can inspire me to beautiful new heights. The key to my rule breaking here is that it has to be a venue that is large enough for us both to have space to move about alone, and social enough to be an event type activity where there is a lot to see and discuss. When I break this particular artist date rule, it’s never in a situation where I need introspection and deep thought. It’s always when I know there will be ample opportunity for a lot of Ooohing and Ahhhing!
Which brings me to the Cottonwood Arts Festival in Richardson Texas that I attended this past weekend. It was spectacular beyond words and pure inspiration! I had forgotten it was taking place until a friend reminded me. We went together and it was spectacular. I almost declined. Read that again. I almost said NO…
I was busy. I was down in the dumps. I was tired. My well was dry. Looking back, I almost did the unthinkable. After these last two years of not being able to do those kinds of things, I’d almost forgotten how much I loved it!
The Empty Well
It’s really quite strange that we can so easily put our creativity on the back burner. We forget about it. We will put nurturing it off until “someday,” and yet we will sit and mope about not being happy, or inspired, or motivated.
That’s because the well is E-M-P-T-Y! The tank is running on fumes, and we haven’t filled it back up yet!
How far will your car go if you did that? I dare say I would never have to remind you to go fill ‘er up!
Now before you think that’s a reprimand, it’s not! Go back a few sentences! I almost DID IT! My word, it is so easy to do! Maybe it’s a rut, maybe it’s just routine…but it can happen, and the key is to catch it before it catches you!
There’s a Catch-22 here. You must have just a little fuel in the tank to get to the station, right? Same with our creative tank. We can’t let it run completely dry.
I hear you – but, but, but. But I’m too tired, too broke, too busy! Yeah, me too! But those are excuses.
The truth is, and I’m not going to sugar coat it – We’re scared! We’re scared to spend any “quality” time with ourselves and give ourselves what we need. We’re scared to find out something we may not like. We’re frightened to try, scared other’s will be better than us, and afraid we’ve lost your edge.
So, we break out the excuses
Thing 1 and Thing 2
Two of my favorite “things” are the “too busy” and “too broke” excuses.
If you’ve been in my community long enough, you’ve heard me use this comparison before. I dare you to count how many minutes you spend in a week staring at the phone, the iPad, or the screen (TV is a screen, by the way!) Yes, some of what we see can be inspirational, but it’s the intent behind that screen time that never lies. If we’re “dulling” out to a game or a scroll, that’s not inspiring. But if you jump up and can’t wait to get started on something – then it’s a creative hit a homerun.
Go back to my example above. I was busy and burnt out. I was just not “feelin’ it!” But I just said yes, and off we went. Good Golly Miss Molly! NOT too busy! Sorry self, I almost dropped the ball! I didn’t want to leave the festival, but my legs were saying it was time to go!
And Broke? No, not buyin’ that either. No one said the artist’s date had to cost a dime! I didn’t say go shopping! LOL Just like spending quality time with a child, it’s the time they spend with you that is remembered long over any money you may have spent.
Except for a bottle of water and a light lunch, I didn’t spend anything at the festival! I took loads of wonderful pictures. I spoke with a ton of amazing artists about their art, their creative process, and their inspiration. I have a purse full of business cards and website addresses to visit later. I jotted down so many ideas that my little purse notebook ran out of pages. It was an artist’s date to end all dates, and it was free!
Make a Date…and keep it!
Now here’s something to try. I want you to make that commitment to a weekly artist’s date. OK, I set the bar pretty high for myself, but you don’t have to do it that big! Set the time and day and go for it. No matter how small or how big, commit to a weekly artist date to start those baby steps.
Of course, you know what’s going to happen, don’t you? Now watch! Watch as some inner part of you starts making excuses! Watch how easily you try to wiggle out of it. Watch how easily you start paring it with something or someone else. “It’s silly. It’ll never work. It’s just one more thing I have to do.”
You’re laughing! I can see you! Yep, that’s right! It’s gonna happen and we all know it!
In filling your well, think fun, think magic, think delight and excitement. Don’t think DUTY!
And don’t always go for the “adult” and “serious” stuff! A little playful fun goes a long way to satisfying that inner artist of yours.
Julia calls this stocking the pond or filling the well so to speak. It’s a lot like filling the fridge. If you keep taking bottles of water out, you do need to put some back in every so often.
Here’s a habit hack to help it stick. I’ll bet you do some things around the house that are kind of a drag! Yes? OK! Pick one that you regularly do at least once a week. Now, tell your adult brain to give your creative child brain a treat in exchange for the chore. I know, it’s silly. But YES, you get an allowance called an artist’s date! Now there’s no excuse for not having time or being too busy! You’ve EARNED it!
So, what is your first date going to be? What will you stock your creative pond with? It can be as simple as sitting outside for 10 minutes and finding shapes in clouds. It can be as strange as going to a store that sells things you would never buy and looking at the shapes and colors. Experiences, images, sounds, smells, textures, taste…all the senses count.
Do something fun and without purpose like making hand shadows on the wall, drawing your pet in cartoon form, or making a paper airplane. It can be big like driving to a state park to see the wildflowers.
Your artist date is whatever you want to do, as long as it fills the well just a little bit!
Think of several things you’d like to add to your date list. Then, share it with us. Post a comment below and let us know what your next date will be.
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Find more purpose and meaning in your day!