Have you ever heard of Julia Cameron’s “Artist Dates”? Well first, have you ever heard of Julia Cameron? She’s the author of The Artist’s Way, a book that while I personally haven’t been able to get into, has helped many, many people breakthrough and tap into their creative spirits.
While I haven’t been able to connect with that book, I am getting a lot out of her book, The Right to Write. In the chapter I just finished, she talks about the importance of taking yourself out on regular Artist’s Dates. What does this mean?
It means leaving your house and going somewhere that will feed your soul, like visiting a museum, fabric shop, plant shop, a park, a jazz club, or the zoo. Whatever will fill your soul and refill your well of inspiration. If you don’t refill this regularly, you’ll drain it dry. Which means… WRITER’S BLOCK! To set yourself up for a perfect Artist Date,
Set aside one hour. Get out of the house, off your beaten path, and do something festive and adventurous. Do it alone. Aim for a sensory experience. Think mystery, not mastery. Choose an activity that appeals to what you might call your inner artist, inner child, or inner explorer. […] Whatever you choose to do, do it solo. Allow yourself to soak up images and impressions. No need to write about them. You are to fill the well, not fish from it. (67-68)
Me, I have a yearly membership to the Woodland Park Zoo, which allows me to visit for free (a bargain!), so yesterday when I was out and about, I decided to head over there. Best decision ever. It was beautiful and very quiet. The holiday light displays are already being installed (they’re intricate and amazing so no surprise they have to start so early) and the animals were active. On top of that, just being surrounded everywhere I went by beautifully lush, green vegetation lifted my spirits, slowed me down, filled my soul.
What was a major light-bulb moment for me in Cameron’s book, was the idea that these Artist Dates need to be done regularly, especially when the writing’s flowing. That you shouldn’t wait until your writing dries up. Why? Because if you wait until your writing has fizzled to recharge, you lose momentum. Instead,
Thinking of a writing life like an athletic career, one comes to the wisdom that marathon runners know very well: ten slow miles are necessary to balance every one fast mile. Stretching is necessary to keep the body limber after and before a long run. So, too, as writers, care and maintenance of our writing muscles are necessary for our writing stamina. This means that we must take the time and attention necessary to fill the well instead of drawing on it unrelentingly and without consciousness of our inner limits. […] Sanity in writing means writing with relative ease and fluidity. It means writing from a full well and not an empty one. Sanity in writing means acknowledging that we are a creative ecosystem and that without fresh inflow and steady outflow the pond of our inner resources can grown stagnant and stale. (66)
Wow. And damn. Yes. It’s not something I ever thought of, but it’s true that when I nourish myself and my appreciation of beauty, I have more words when I sit down to write. It’s as if they stored up while I was smiling at a beautiful flower or cloud pattern, and then were there waiting when I pulled out my pen. Like magic, only it’s better than that because this is something you can understand and control!
Try it out and let me know what you think. I’d love to hear of some of your favorite Artist Date destinations, but I won’t go with you because remember, this is something you need to do alone. Enjoy!