One of my most favorite books ever does not actually so much tell a story as it helps you tell yours. The Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron, is sort of combination of spiritual, psychological and technical exercises for helping break writers’ or artists’ blocks and free your creativity. Not just for writers and artists, it can really help you unblock your creativity in nearly any aspect of your life.
One of the tools used in Julia’s guide is something called artist dates, which, I have decided, is something that everyone should do, even if you don’t think you’re an artist.
What is an artist date? Well, it is essentially a date with yourself, with your inner artist, your inner child, as it were. As Julia puts it “… a play date that you plan and defend against all interlopers…” The idea is to give yourself time each week, even if it is just a couple of hours, committed to nurturing your creative consciousness.
We live in a fast forward society. We roll out of bed in the morning and hit the ground running, even if it is only metaphorically speaking. We get ourselves and our families ready for work and school, we walk the dog, feed the pets, commute, shop, work, cook, clean and on and on until we fall into bed again at night. It’s an easy rut to get into, and a hard one to get out of. What the artist date or play date represents is a chance to stop, be creative, be spontaneous, or just be.
But there’s a catch…
You have to do it by yourself…
“What?!?” You might ask. “All by myself? Just me? But what will I DO?” Well, that’s the beauty of it. Do whatever suits your fancy, whatever your inner child, your heart, your spirit needs. It does not have to be expensive. It can be as simple as a walk in the woods, a trip to the zoo or watching the sunset from a beach. Sit and color, go to a bookstore, but do it by yourself. No lover, no children, no pets.
Part of Julia’s concept about artist dates in The Artist’s Way is for you to begin to listen to yourself. To start to pay attention to the inner chatter, have a dialog with that inner artist, and ultimately find solutions to your questions, tap into your creative reserves and allow yourself to create.
There is something more to it though. In our constantly busy lives, how often are we truly alone? And I don’t mean sitting alone in an empty office, or alone cooking dinner or paying the bills. I mean alone with ourselves, allowing our thoughts to wander and our imagination to roam, a little time to ourselves, with ourselves, to just be.
So here is my challenge to you, take yourself on a date this week. Set aside a couple of hours, if that’s all you have, and don’t let anyone or anything interrupt it. Do something that brings you a little bit of joy. Go to an art gallery or a museum, look for shiny rocks on the beach, sit in a café and read a book, or splurge and get a massage. Just make sure it’s only you and only for you.
When we spend so much of our lives catering to the needs and wants of others, we tend to forget to pay attention to our own. We burn the candle at both ends and eventually we are not even giving our best to those we are working so hard for. The world is filled it tense, irritable people who really probably just need a hug, or at least a little frivolous fun and self-reflection.
Give your inner child a little recess, or at the very least convince yourself that taking some time for yourself can help you give the rest of the world a bit more of the real you. You might be surprised what you discover.