Artist Dates and Creative Breaks

Yesterday, I had the good fortune to join two of my writer friends and road trip to a nearby town, all for a poetry reading that might or might not be awesome.

For all intents and purposes, it was what Julia Cameron calls an Artist Date:

a once-weekly, festive, solo expedition to explore something that interests you. The Artist Date need not be overtly “artistic”– think mischief more than mastery. Artist Dates fire up the imagination. They spark whimsy. They encourage play. Since art is about the play of ideas, they feed our creative work by replenishing our inner well of images and inspiration.

Although I didn’t do this artist date solo, the conversations the three of us had over lunch and in the car about craft, our writing, as well as more mundane things were in some ways more valuable. You see, I spend most of my days solo already, writing, reading etc. So some times I need to be around other people, artist date or not.

The day was sunny and gorgeous, so we walked around, letting the weather hinting of Springtime and the new locale inspire us after a delicious meal. And the poetry reading? Well, it kinda sucked. But the point was to change things up a bit, expose ourselves to something new, something different, regardless of the outcome. You can’t write unless you keep yourself open to experiences of all kinds.

For me, the day was about changing up my writing routine. I also realized just how nice it can be to spend time with my writing friends outside of critique group, which doesn’t always allow for deeper socialization when everyone has at least five manuscript pages to get through.

And I already have plans for more artist dates – solo this time – while my husband is traveling for two weeks near the end of this month. Trips to museums, and exhibits, and science talks (I am such a dork), and new restaurants in parts of town I haven’t explored yet. I will treat myself well, and hopefully my writing will benefit from it.

How to make artist dates work for you?

The good news, for me at least, is that I live in a sizable city that supports a lot of different events. There’s also an alt weekly, in print and online, that does a good job of highlighting events that occur throughout the area. I’ve made a habit of checking it every week to keep my eye out for new things, new experiences, that I’m interested in or would enrich my life.

Other resources, depending where you live, could be your public library, chamber of commerce, or even local university. Universities often have a wide range of events, performances, and talks to keep the students entertained, but that doesn’t mean folks from the greater community can’t get involved.

Online message boards and forums dedicated to your community could also be a good resource and put you in touch with people with similar interests.

And never be afraid to take a road trip to somewhere new. You never know what you’ll discover.

Happy writing!
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10 thoughts on “Artist Dates and Creative Breaks

  1. Jen McConnel says:

    Good for you! It's hard to remember that we need to step away from the writing from time to and time and nurture ourselves with other things. I'm glad you are making this a part of your practice! I keep trying to, but I struggle with finding enough hours in the day. Perhaps as summer comes, and there are more outdoor events (I love outdoor festivals and music).

    Hope your artist date left you refreshed and inspired!

  2. Elizabeth Twist says:

    I remember years ago going to an open mic poetry night. Most people were terrible. We applauded anyway. Then one guy got up and read the most amazing poem in this really intense, amusing way. He performed it more than read it. It was a revelation, really.

    Sounds like an awesome day.

  3. Laura Marcella says:

    When I did The Artist's Way course the artist dates were some of my favorite parts of the week. It's good to gad about town, try something new, and replenish the well!

  4. Steph Schmidt says:

    I like what Tahereh Mafi said about being alone, “you have to know how to be alone. how to be an individual. how to love yourself as a human being who exists independent of anyone else.” I think my favorite part about mass transit is that at once you can be alone in a crowd and either people watch or just let your imagination run wild with the scenery out the window.

  5. Bluestocking says:

    Finding time is a big deal. Finding the energy to break out of your routine can also take effort. But it's usually worth it. It certainly was this time.

  6. Bluestocking says:

    Yeah, there were two poets, one pretty good, the other awful. Truly cringe-worthy. We clapped for both of them. And when great bits of phrasing happened every now and then, it kept us from leaving. Learning what doesn't work is just as important (I hope).

  7. Bluestocking says:

    I definitely recommend it. Essential for recharging the creative juices and making your writing time all the more valuable when you come back to it.

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