I recently recommended Julia Cameron’s book, The Artist’s Way, to a creative friend who has struggled with knowing how to best honor his creative impulse. Cameron’s book is really a 12-week, self-study boot camp for creativity, designed to release and renew creative energy and help the artist (or, would-be artist) focus on a life littered with creative pursuits.
One of the concepts Cameron introduces in the text is the idea of the “Artist Date,” a regularly scheduled foray into a new restaurant, a museum or gallery, a new physical activity, a new experience that the individual has always wanted to try.
The activity is meant to be a creative catalyst, but it doesn’t have to be directly related to any specific project or “goal” in the artist’s life. The artist date is a chance to pamper the intellect. The sights, sounds, smells, or knowledge gained should be added to the writer’s storehouse of general or background knowledge, that ultimate mashup of information that seeps into the artist’s work when it is needed and least expected.
I’ve referenced Todd Henry’s book (The Accidental Creative) on several occasions on this blog. Henry advocates a similar concept to Cameron’s “Artist Date” when he talks about “quality stimuli.” In Henry’s writing, he acknowledges that we are all surrounded by a cacophony of white noise and he details how important it is for creatives to plan–intentionally and regularly–ways to include high-quality stimuli into our over-consumption of base-quality media.
This is exactly what the artist date does for us: It rips us away from the mundane, the vulgar, the soul-deadening white noise and it presents our creative self with something new, something different, something beautiful to latch on to. The artist date should shake us up, give us an a-ha moment or two, leave us nodding our head, or maybe even leave us speechless. In the end, the best artist dates leave us quiet, centered, contemplative.
If you’ve ever had a chronic tooth ache or other illness or pain that lingered, you have thought to yourself, at some point during that illness, “I want to feel well, again, but I can’t even remember what being well feels like!” This is the same sensation the inner artist is experiencing when you are stuck in the daily firestorm of phone calls, emails, TV commercials, too-loud car radios, and even louder, arguing neighbors. And, that’s just the start of the list of things that bombard us, day in and day out. Some of the crap we take in through our senses is our own choice. A lot of it is not. Replacing even a sliver of that white noise of modern life with a planned, high-quality experience will leave your inner artist free of the pain of constant media bombing, free to say, “Oh, yes! This! This is what it feels like to be well, to be free!”