I owe The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron its own post due to how influential it's been in my creative recovery. I am currently halfway through the twelve-week course and will rave about the whole methodology in more detail once I finish.
I've already talked about how marvelous morning pages are, but now I'd like to discuss the second, more elusive foundational practice in the Artist's Way: the artist date. Cameron asserts that the two are the most basic building blocks that can fortify the creative recovery process.
An artist date, by Cameron's definition, is a fun activity of some kind that you take yourself on regularly (think once a week) to nourish your inner artist and reintroduce a sense of creativity and play into your life. Cameron says morning pages and artist dates are like a radio transmitter and receiver: with one tool, you're filtering and decoding your external life; with the other, you're repopulating your inner life with experiences that enrich it.
Since I started this course two months ago or so (I've spaced out the lessons a bit) I've been attending to my morning pages religiously, and they've helped me break through some big blocks in my life. But I have to admit that I haven't taken myself on a single artist date. Why?
Why do I halfheartedly schedule artist dates into my week and then bump them off for the first alternative that presents itself? I think part of me is too proud, and finds the whole idea of an artist date nauseating. Like, what a fluffy New-Agey practice to "date oneself." The idea conjures up these flat scenarios in my mind of desperation and loneliness. And really, I know this attitude is bitchy and unfair.
I think the other reason, probably the stronger reason, is self-sabotage. Maybe I'm scared of being that intimate with myself. It only makes sense to reward the daily discipline of morning pages with a weekly treat of the artist date, but maybe I'm too stingy, too nervous to have fun. It's easy for me to prioritize morning pages because they're a bit of a grind-- I have to get up earlier, do them every single day even if I don't feel like it, etc. But to prioritize fun and expression feels risky. What could happen if I added a sense of play back into my life? Maybe the part of me that likes being sad and nervous worries that that would knock down all barriers to consistent creative output, and then I'd have no excuse but to make progress on creative projects. And what then?
I was thinking about this yesterday when I was writing my morning pages and I came up with an idea: since this is a blog about using creativity as a means of healing and mental recovery, what if I documented my artist dates here? What if you joined in too, and we all used this space to collaborate and document our collective experiment with taking ourselves on dates?
I think it's worth a try, especially since I have had such lousy luck with the tool so far. If you want to join me, let's first get crystal-clear on what the parameters for an artist date are:
- You must be alone-- just you and your "inner artist." (By the way, the idea of an "inner artist" may induce an eyeroll, and I get that, it kind of does for me too, but stick with me.) I'm making a slight exception to this rule by declaring pets an acceptable third party.
- The date must be ritualized, once a week, and it must be fun. If you're doing a date you *think* would "be good" for you, like going to a museum, for instance, but the thought of it bores you, do something else! This should feel exciting.
- How much should a date cost? I am going to go with with free or close to free, with the occasional "splurge" if you feel so inclined. In my opinion, the cheaper the better. There are plenty of things you could do for free or nearly free.
If you're in, take a look at your schedule. Pencil in one two-hour slot this week, or, if you're adventurous, pencil in a recurring slot for every week on the same day and time, and commit to this space. Make it sacred. Follow through. Let me know what you're feeling.
So what should you do on an artist date? There are tons of lists on the Internet, some good, some cheesy, so some Googling will set you up nicely if you can't come up with anything. However, I think I'm going to try thinking of the stuff I liked to do when I was an 8-year old and go from there. Remember, if the idea doesn't appeal to you, do something else. Don't make this another obligation you punish yourself with.
If you're like me and you find yourself wanting to do the artist date but standing yourself up, ask yourself what you gain from not trying it. Are you worried of what will happen if you let yourself have fun? Are you worried you'll let someone else down if you focus on yourself for a little bit?
Remember, keeping yourself taken care of is the most nourishing thing you can do for your well being. Taking a few hours out a week to explore on your own isn't selfish, it's the opposite. The more centered you let yourself become, the more you'll be able to give to everyone else.
So what do you think? Are you going to give artist dates a go? Let me know! I think I'm going to commit to this Wednesday night for my first one. Keep in touch and we can dissect any and all barriers that come up in our path as we attempt this together.