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 .
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.
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.