Artist’s dates add sparkle to life

Artist's date

Artist’s dates were high on my list of things I missed during COVID-19 isolation. Both have been regular, important parts of my life for decades. I missed the fizz of new ideas and the sparkle of self-induced fun. I know that brains need novelty and stimulation and wrote about that here. But when I couldn’t go out, I felt helpless and slightly deprived, although on the whole isolation didn’t affect me badly.

What are artist’s dates?

They’re a bit like date nights with a lover or spouse, except that you go on an outing alone. They provide time to pamper yourself and listen to the part of yourself you might describe as your inner artist or creative child.

This concept comes from Julia Cameron in her acclaimed book, The Artist‘s Way. She says that writing morning pages, walking every day and artist’s dates help engage creativity. She continues,

If you think this sounds stupid or that you will never be able to afford the time, identify that reaction as resistance. You cannot afford not to find time for artist dates.

She admits that the idea of spending quality time by ourselves can be frightening or threatening, but also says it can be remarkably productive, not only for writers and artists, but for everyone.

We all engage in creative activities, not only those who call themselves artists and writers. We cook and make homes. Sew and knit and crotchet. Build and repair things. Make music and gardens. We grow children and nurture relationships. These are creative activities.

Each of them requires creative thinking and imagination, and everyone can benefit from artist’s dates .

Benefits

Many good things come from regular artist’s dates. Here are a few.

  • Precious times alone can be incredibly self-nurturing. Imagine giving yourself regular time, say two hours a week, to explore and satisfy your curiosity and indulge yourself in new sights and sounds.
  • It makes us better thinkers and conversationalists, writers, artists, parents, lovers.
  • Time alone doing something we enjoy or feel curious about stimulates our imagination.
  • Enjoying our own company and having fun alone are important skills and also help to ward off boredom.
  • To be playful, lighthearted and have fun is its own reward. Julia Cameron says, ‘A little fun can go a long way toward making your work feel more like play.’
  • Creative activities can be thought of as ‘outputs’. Artist’s dates, on the other hand, can be considered as ‘. Think of them as ‘filling the well’ or ‘stocking the pond’ with images and ideas.

Excuses

It’s easy to find excuses not to care for ourselves. Reasons why we can’t go out alone and enjoy ourselves come readily to mind.

  • Too broke? You don’t have to spend money to window shop or browse in a junk shop. Visits to a new neighbourhood or a fabric or fishing shop cost nothing. Walking by a beach, visiting a church, walking in a strange neighbourhood – all free.
  • Can’t think of anything that you’d enjoy doing by yourself? Until you start, it can seem scary, but soon you’ll have plenty of ideas. However, if really stuck for ideas of things to do, you could check out this list of 101 things to do on an artist’s date.
  • Not enough time? It’s the old story. If you don’t have enough time, make some! Artist’s dates are important!
  • Feel selfish taking time out alone for two hours a week? Everyone deserves and needs some time alone. As well, everyone else will benefit from your time by yourself.

My artist’s dates since the end of isolation

My solo outings so far have been simple, ordinary things. At first, after thirteen weeks of stay-at-home life, I felt slightly nervous. The world seemed to have changed.

  • Shopping for food felt like a big adventure. For the first few weeks, John’s and my oldest daughters did our shopping. Then I switched to online shopping for food. A very different experience! The shops seemed larger and lighter and noisier than I remembered. They stimulated my senses and so did choosing fruit and vegetables.
  • There’s a little second-hand or antique shop near our apartment. I spent an hour or so looking at beautiful things and quirky treasures. A tiny green ink bottle evoked memories of my childhood and learning to use pen and ink in year 2 or 3 in the 1940s. I bought it for $5 and tucked it into a space on a cupboard.
  • This morning, I swam in the local swimming pool for the first time in months. Such a special artist’s date, that first swim. My senses buzzed. My eyes stung for a moment with splashed chlorinated water. Muscles unused for ages remembered the joy of movement in water at the perfect temperature. Sunshine streamed through the windows and the water sparkled.

In a few weeks’ time, routine activities will become ordinary. Then it will be time to explore new places and activities again.

Join the Conversation

11 Comments

    1. I’m no longer sure what normality really means, Sue. But Western Australia has opened most places, as long as people apply principles of social distancing. There is still a very hard and policed border between this state and the rest of Australia and the world beyond. Western Australians returning from overseas are still required to quarantine in hotels paid for by the government for two weeks before they can go to their homes. It means the only active cases (four this morning) still counted in the statistics involve people who have come home.

      John and I and most people we know continue to take great care of social distancing, hand washing and sanitising. We are still strongly urged to take tests if we are even slightly unwell with respiratory symptoms.

      1. The rules are being relaxed a little here too with hairdressers etc and cinemas being opened next week, but not gyms or swimming pools.
        Testing is also widespread if anyone has symptoms including household members.

        Yesterday, I went out for the first time, one of my hearing aids was causing problems so I booked an appointment, I nearly cancelled, but decided it was probably safer now than it would be when the rules are relaxed further.

        It was a private audiology department and not NHS, I had to knock on the door first, like some seedy club! Someone let me in and the staff wore PPE, my temperature was taken, I was given hand gel and one of their surgical masks instead of my own.

        Anyway, because they are still under guarantee my hearing aids were replaced with a newer upgraded model. So I was pleased I’d not cancelled.
        As I got back in the car I had the urge to go for a drive but hadn’t a clue where I should go. Instead, on the way home, I took a detour to my favourite lake but the car park was full so I drove home! It was a start, but I don’t think I want to go to supermarkets or any other stores just yet.

        I’m certain there will be a rise in the infections because I’m sure too many people will take advantage of the freedom and forget physical distancing.
        Thank you, Maureen.

        1. It is all very distressing, Sue. I’m slowly moving out and about a bit more, but feeling nervous even though there are just four active cases (all returned overseas travellers in hotel quarantine which is policed). I’m becoming a little more adventurous, but far from normal. I do understand your reluctance to go anywhere.

          On the brighter side, I’m pleased your hearing aids were replaced and upgraded. Such a relief to be able to hear properly. Mine are among my most prized possessions!

          1. I can imagine how distressing it must be.
            Although Joss is allowed to stay overnight here it continues to worry me when he stays. I just cannot envisage ever getting back to normal.

            1. Life’s a bit like that at the moment, Sue. I guess our new normal will be something we never imagined. I am nervous of people coming to visit us, and have only had one daughter and her husband for a meal. On tenterhooks the whole time.

    1. Hi, Michelle. I love it when someone says they love the Artist’s Way! It seems to form a special bond. Take great care.

    1. Thanks, Susan. I have missed my solo dates that feed my creativity. Hope we can catch up again soon for coffee at our favourite place in the city.

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