Julia Cameron’s book, The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity, was first published in 1992 and is still amazingly popular. The book leads readers through a 12-week program of exercises, habits and experiences to help get in touch with her creative self. There are several activities that I found very helpful in nurturing my own creativity. One of these is the concept of Artist Dates. As Cameron describes them, They are 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 I finally sat down and read the book and read about Artist Dates, I had a major aha. I realized I have been doing artist dates for many years but didn’t really understand consciously what I was doing. When my kids were little and I had some rare time by myself, I would often go into stores that were extremely visually stimulating – not to buy things, but just to look and fill myself with inspiration. Or I would linger in the library, looking at all kinds of book. Sometimes I would just sit in bed after the kids were asleep and pour over magazines, turning down ages or ripping things out that interested me. When I travelled for business, I would walk or run around whatever city I was in to take in all of the new sites and sounds. My favorite was early in the morning as a city was just waking up. When the kids were young, I often didn’t have much time to work on my own art, so engaging in these mini-explorations filled my creative needs for a while and actually helped me more than I realized at the time, in all areas of my life.
There are many definitions out there for creativity. Most people believe it has to do with being artistic and having a fertile imagination. Really, creativity has to do with seeing things in new ways, seeing hidden patterns and making connections between seemingly unrelated things or ideas. In fact, some experts believe that there are really no totally new ideas, just new ways of connecting the dots. Steve Jobs said, “Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while.”
So if what Steve Jobs said is true, the best way to fuel your creativity is to expose yourself to new things and visual and sensory stimulation. The concept of The Artist Date is a great habit to put in place for yourself. Here are a few ideas for artist dates:
- Browse a fabric store or well-merchandised clothing stores, feeling the fabrics and taking in all of the colors and visual textures.
- Wander through a botanical garden or a plant nursery and take in all of those colors and textures.
- Spend time in a book store or library looking at books.
- Take a new route when driving and explore for a few minutes or do the same when walking, running or bicycle riding. Try to notice things that maybe you wouldn’t otherwise.
- Listen to a podcast on something out of the ordinary for you.
- Take a class on something new.
- Cut up a bunch of old magazines and make a collage of things that spark your interest for whatever reason!
- Go to a building salvage and dream about what unusual items could be repurposed or up-cycled and how.
- Go for a walk in the forest or on a beach and take photos with your phone of interesting things you find. Try to notice everything like textures and colors and light and shadows, smells, and sounds.
- Take photos with your phone of anything that strikes you for whatever reason. If you have portrait mode, play with that too.
- Spend some time on Pinterest and create a board with the only goal being stuff that interests you.
- Take a tour of an art museum or a museum of history & industry.
- What ideas do you have?