I haven’t been strictly following the weekly structure, but in my own haphazard and meandering way, this year I’ve been happily working and playing through Julia Cameron’s classic book, The Artist’s Way. By that I mean, I’ve been reading it here and there, writing my Morning Pages when I feel like it and sometimes even when I don’t, and whenever I’m feeling “stuck” or uninspired, I turn to the exercises and ideas contained within. I highly recommend this, whatever type of artist or human you happen to be. Cameron’s meditations are rather earnest and completely unironic, and they require a reader to bring a similar attitude. This isn’t always easy for me. If you can do this, though, there’s incredible personal growth and creative “unblocking” to be gained.
One of the most valuable things I’ve taken from TAW is one of the simplest: The concept of the “Artist Date.”
What’s an Artist Date? It’s a gift of time and play that you give your creative self. This could mean watching a movie, taking a class, going dancing, visiting an art museum or park…anything that you wish to do that brings you joy, that you do only for pleasure, and that you do alone. Cameron describes it as “once-weekly, festive, solo expedition to explore something that interests you. The Artist Date need not be overtly. “artistic” — think mischief more than mastery.”
What do you wish you were “allowed” to do?
Everyone has a private list of things they wish they had time to do. The point of the Artist Date is to first, recognize and declare that our wishes, our own pleasure, have value, and then, to claim the time that these wishes require. In a world obsessed with productivity, it can seem paralyzingly difficult to claim time from our busy adult calendars to play, yet play, in the sense of undirected joyful exploration, is precisely what is required for creative inspiration, innovation, and the dissolution of the dreaded creative block.
Recently, I found myself writing a list of activities that I knew I had enjoyed in the past, yet had ceased to do. One of these beloved activities was the practice of taking solo photo walks. This was a frequent activity for me in NYC, but not for years, for no good reason.
Great as it is, sometimes the iPhone camera just won’t cut it. Armed with my favorite macro lens, I chose this for my Artist Date last week, and brought myself to the glorious San Francisco Conservatory of Flowers, one of my favorite places in the city. As synchronicity would have it, I happened to pick the day just after Terra the Titan, the resident 9-year-old Titan Arum or Corpse Flower, reached peak bloom. This was the closest to peak that I have ever seen such a plant, and though its famous rotting-meat stink had mostly dissipated, I consider myself incredibly lucky for the visit.