How To Use Artist Dates To Nourish Ourselves

A year ago I started feeling something was off in my life but I didn’t know what change I needed to make. Then I read Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way and I realised two things:

1. I need to express myself creatively. When I don’t, I enter a spiral of existentialist depression.

2. My creativity was completely depleted.

I know I’m not the only one. We all are creative beings, and by that I mean we feel a need to express ourselves in one way or another, to try new things, explore, experiment and play. For some of us, this need is particularly strong. We did it when we were children, but as we grow up life starts demanding things from us and before we realise it, there’s no time and energy left for our creative endeavours. And then we feel empty.

That book opened my eyes and reconnected me with a longing I didn’t know I felt. I took photos sometimes and wrote occasionally but I didn’t feel the passion I used to feel in the past. I wasn’t feeling much of anything. So, how was I supposed to refill that well of creativity full of cobwebs? 

The answer was simple: Artist dates.

“The Artist Date is 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. When choosing an Artist Date, it is good to ask yourself, “what sounds fun?” — and then allow yourself to try it.” — Julia Cameron

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.

How can we possibly create anything when we’re running on empty fuel? We have to stimulate ourselves with variety. We have to fill ourselves up with new activities, images, colours, flavours, textures, sensations. 

Now, I’m a sensitive introvert and if you are too, there’s a chance you might be thinking, “I can’t fill my calendar with more activities, I’m exhausted as it is”. But artist dates don’t have to be complicated or time and energy-consuming. There is beauty in simplicity.

Here are some examples of artist dates I’ve engaged in in the last year:

  • Go out for a walk and let intuition guide in which direction to go. I’ve discovered really cool places doing this.
  • Go to an art exhibition.
  • Visit an art supply shop and get something that sparks your attention (then use it!)
  • Follow an online art-making tutorial.
  • Follow an online belly dancing tutorial (or any other kind of dance).
  • Make a collage.
  • Take photos in your neighbourhood. It’s surprising how many little things we don’t notice. 
  • Explore an area you’ve never been to.
  • Make a new recipe.
  • Listen to music without doing anything else, not even looking at your phone.
  • Go for a walk in nature or just sit in nature.
  • Watch a documentary or listen to a podcast about a topic that fascinates you.
  • Watch a film or read a book whose style is different from what you usually watch and read.
  • Create a special corner in your home to sit, relax or meditate.
  • Write a letter to someone you need to forgive or to your past self or future self.
  • Change your hairstyle or wear something you never wear.
  • Go cloud-watching or star-gazing.
  • Write a list of affirmations to uplift you (then read it out loud!)
  • Create a vision board (either physically or digitally).
  • Get rid of clothes you never wear (give them to charity!)
  • Read your favourite book from your childhood.
  • Read an old journal.
  • Look out your window or sit somewhere in public and observe everything around you: the scenery, the people, the birds, the actions taking place… Soak it all in.

I know in our current situation some of these things might be more difficult (or impossible) to do than others but hey, pandemics don’t last forever! The important thing is to carve out a bit of time to nourish ourselves with things that make us feel good. I believe we all should do this for our sanity but those of us who feel pulled towards artistic creation need this as much as we need fresh air and water. 

Do you plan artist dates for yourself? Is there any particular activity that feels extra joyful and inspiring to you? You will recognise the things that are right for you when you feel a boost of energy, a sense of hope and excitement, a cheerful feeling as you engage in them. They feel like home, even if you’ve never tried them before. 

I hope you’ll give yourself the quality time you deserve!

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