In her book The Artist’s Way Julia Cameron guides you —over the course of 12 weeks— through the process of recovering your creative self.
Although aimed primarily at artists, the step-by-step approach will work for anyone looking to transform their life and overcome limiting beliefs.
I’ve worked through the book twice, both times with significantly positive outcomes.
Among other things, it helped me gain confidence in my writing ability and overcome my obsession with perfectionism.
Most significantly, it’s allowed me to let go of the resentment I harbored towards my first grade teacher for yelling at me when I drew circles in the middle of my workbook.
I mean seriously, those were some good looking circles.
The Artist’s Way is a brilliant book and one I highly recommend, but for now I’m going to focus on just one aspect of it. Out of all the tools outlined within it, going on a weekly Artist Date is the one that’s stuck.
What Is an Artist Date?
An Artist Date is essentially assigned play. It’s all about indulging your inner artist; the little kid inside of you who would love to break free from the confines and responsibilities of being an adult and just have fun. These solo expeditions are an opportunity to explore something (anything) that interests you.
Artist Dates don’t have to be ‘artistic’ per sé, they’re more about firing up your imagination, sparking whimsy and most importantly, encouraging play. As Julia Cameron says, “Since art is about the play of ideas, they feed our creative work by replenishing our inner well of images and inspiration.”
What Are the Benefits of an Artist Date?
If your car’s gas gauge goes into the red you immediately pull over and fill up; it’s not even a question. Yet, when it comes to self-care we’re not nearly as diligent. This aversion to looking after number one comes at a price, though.
Just like a car can’t run on fumes, neither can you. If you want to up your creative output, you have to take the time to fill your creative well. For me, Artist Dates are how I side-step writer’s block and procrastination.
I almost never skip these weekly excursions, but on the rare occasion that I do, I notice the difference in my work almost immediately. My ability to create slows down and I’m not nearly as excited about the projects I’m working on.
Along with being a huge amount of fun, Artist Dates are also a wonderful opportunity to reconnect with yourself as an individual. We’re so conditioned to operating in a unit (family, couple, best friend, etc.), that we lose sight of who we are. Artist Dates are a way of getting in touch with ourselves again.
How to Choose an Artist Date
“When choosing an Artist Date,” says Cameron, “it’s good to ask yourself, ‘what sounds fun?’ — and then allow yourself to try it.” Because Artist Dates are solo quests, you can choose to do whatever you feel like. You don’t have to consider anyone but yourself.
Go to an art gallery, watch a movie or spend the morning wandering through a craft market. If you’re lucky enough to live in New York, for example, you could take in a Broadway show. (I hear Book Of Mormon tickets are finally on sale.)
Whatever you decide, the choice is entirely yours. Just keep in mind that’s it’s meant to spark your imagination in some way. Massages are wonderful, but they’re what you do when you indulge in a little me time. An Artist Date is more of a fun adventure.
Artist Dates 101
The Artist Date rules are simple, but depending on how much of a workaholic you are, you may still find them to be a challenge. We’ve had this idea of multi-tasking and being super productive drummed into us for so long now that taking time for ourselves is a foreign concept.
• You have to go by yourself (no kids, spouses, besties or pets allowed).
• It can’t involve chores (no combining your Artist Date with grocery shopping).
• It must be a minimum of two hours long.
• You need to go on at least one Artist Date a week.
If you’re still uncomfortable about taking time out just for you, then ruminate for a moment on these wise words from Brian Sutton-Smith, a developmental psychologist who helped pioneer the study of play and its importance for both children and adults. He said, “The opposite of play is not work, it is depression.”
It’s worth noting that while a weekly Artist Date will almost always make things right with the world, they’re not the solution to all of life’s problems.
How cool would that be?
Occasionally, we may bump up against an issue or situation that requires more than a Saturday afternoon at the movies to fix it. If the problem you’re facing is bigger than you know how to cope with alone, ask for help. Click here to find a therapist.
Ready to go on that Artist Date now? I thought you might be.