Date nights and the creative pause.

Creative pauses and artists' dates.
Photo by daihung via Flickr

 

Treat Your Writer Well

So how far along are you on your writer’s path?  Have you been diligently sitting down every day and cranking out pages of prose?  Have you been buying up “how-to” books and crafting perfect little writing exercises?  Have you finally hit on the perfect idea for your first novel, first screenplay, first blog?

Or are you overwhelmed by possibility?  Either way, in the words of wise McDonald, you probably deserve a break today.  Don’t worry about being a slacker, the truth is that in life, the pauses are just as important as the sprints.

“Even the smallest amount of self-nurturance will have an immediate and beneficial impact on our writing,” advises Julia Cameron in The Right to Write.

“One of the mysteries of the writing life is the fact that an investment of interest in column A – let us say, listening to a great piece of music – will pay off obliquely when we set pen to paper on an entirely different topic.”

But you don’t need no stinkin’ break, right?  You’re doing great.  You’ve got plenty of chapters done.  You’ve gotten poems lined up, one after the other, in your pretty Moleskine.  You’ve got momentum baby! A body at rest remains at rest and you’re all about motion.  Can’t stop now, you’ll lose your momentum.

Which is precisely why it’s time to take a deep breath and chill out.  If you wait too long, you’ll hit that wall head on, and recovery and reemergence will be a much harder prospect.  You’ll wonder what happened to all that verve, all that punch, all that genius that seemed to flow out uninhibited as if dictated by the gods.

“This temptation to hibernate and binge on our writing is a tendency that works in the short term, but not the long term,” cautions Cameron – and you’re in it for the long haul, right?

“Very often work dries up precisely because it was going so well,” explains Cameron.  “We have simply overfished our inner reservoir without having taken the time and care to consciously restock our storehouse of images.”

So what’s the solution?  How about what Cameron calls the Artist Date?

“Put simply, an Artist Date is a once-weekly solo expedition to something festive that interests us.”

I know what you’re thinking?  Sounds hokey….lame….time consuming.  You’re an important person with important responsibilities, you can’t be dillydallying with pretend dates for your inner “artiste!”  But Buddha – or Yoda or whichever wise counsel speaks to you – would suggest you listen to that internal resistance, it’s got something important to tell you.  More often than not, the thing we do not want to do is the thing that, as Eleanor Rosevelt says, “must be done.”

“Resisting our resistance makes us stronger,” writes Cameron.  “Taking the time and care to restock our inner well makes writing a far easier proposition….Writing is done in black and white, but in order to be done well, it must be done colorfully.”

“Writing is what we make from the broth of our experience.”

Yesterday I took Cameron’s advise and ditched a windy afternoon of bike riding – there’s nothing more miserable than pedaling into gusts of dust, pollen and palm fronds – and took myself on a little date.  Here’s what I saw while I was out mingling with the world.

Walking out of the parking structure, I see the new back facade of the recently renovated Granada Theater.  It’s an excellent reminder of the pageantry and theater of life.

Crossing the street on the way to the Santa Barbara art museum, I notice that the grounds of the public library are in bloom.  What a great, old fashioned street lamp offset by a flowering tree…perfect picture postcard of the afternoon.

It’s First Thursday in Santa Barbara  – a monthly event where galleries and participating merchants open up their doors to roving bands of art aficionados (and anyone looking for a fun night out – and as luck would have it, entrance to the museum is free!

The gallery’s current installation is entitled “Pasadena to Santa Barbara: A Selected History of Art in Southern California, 1951-1969.” Inside, I find all manner of contemporary art that would be right at home in Don Draper’s fancy new living room.  I love it when art and life work in harmony.

Karl Benjamin says, “Fill up the spaces with pretty colors and don’t mess around.”

Helen Lundeberg says, “It never occurred to me that I couldn’t be an artist if I wanted to be.”

All this gallery gazing has worked up an appetite.  Since it’s my date night and I get to call the shots, it’s Vietnamese food and local sorbet for dessert. Yum!

See how much that was?  Now you try it…

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