The Truth About Artist Dates
By Elizabeth Cutright
© 2012 The Daily Creative Writer
I wasn’t off to a glorious start. After discovering that my socks had lost all their elastic and were determined to ride down past my heels and clump up under the arch of my foot, I chose to keep on hiking anyway. I was already out on the trail, seemed too late to go back. Then, just as I’d committed to the single file dirt path, a group of loud, chatty ladies fell in step behind me. Theirs was not casual conversation, they were dedicated to cultivating a party atmosphere out here under the oak branches and a cloudless, blue sky. I jogged up the path a bit in an attempt to put some distance between us, but there were relentless – just far enough to be out of sight, but their shrill voices were carried far and wide, drowning out the birds, bees and babbling brooks.
I was not amused.
I took off jogging again, rounded a bend, and found myself smack dab in the middle of a shady nook full of hidden but harmonious frogs croaking and yelping at a variety of speeds and decibels. It was perfect – exactly what I’d been looking for. The voices of the chatty ladies finally drowned out and nature reasserting it’s dominant position. The frogs singing along the creek, the birds twittering away in the trees who’s leaves rustled in the afternoon breeze – all these sounds cleared a space in my head to think and imagine and create.
And that’s what the Artist Date is really all about.
I’ve talked about the Artist Date before in previous posts, and although I haven’t gotten the hang of scheduling weekly sojurns, the times I do manage to get out on my own and explore have paid back my efforts tenfold. Julia Cameron first discusses Artist Dates in The Artist’s Way, and her subsequent books also make mention of the importance of getting away from your daily grind – alone – and refilling your creative well.
The best part is – these dates can happen anywhere, at any time. There’s no right way to do them – just use the time doing whatever appeals to you in the moment, whether it’s poking around an art store, strolling through a farmer’s market, or taking a nice long hike in the hills behind your home town.
As Cameron points out, sometimes we hit a wall when we’ve been writing successfully over a long stretch – we’ve been happily hitting those keys and re-sharpening those pencils, filling pages and pages of insights and ideas. Then suddenly your mind goes blank, the words slow down to an agonizing drip, and you’re left wondering what the hell happened.
You’ve just tapped your creative well, and it’s time to let the world around you fill it back up.
I know it can sound weird to take time out on your own and just hang out without any specific agenda or goal other than to just “be.” Most of us – particularly those of us who’ve grown up in the US – have been schooled to believe that all time must be used productively. More often than not, productivity can only be accomplished with the completion of goals and – hopefully – some sort of pay day as a reward for your efforts. But just marinating a choice piece of meat can exponentially improve a meal, so can the percolation of your brain improve your writing life.
So take an Artist Date why don’t you…it’s easy.
Check what I saw on my afternoon hiking adventure…
Starting off along the Oak-lined path
On my way towards the trailhead.
We don’t look up often enough…
At the end of the climb – a vantage point under the clearest skies.
And now a word from our frog chorus…
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