Monday, March 26, 2012

Julia Cameron's Artist's Dates

Back when I lived in New Mexico, my mom sent me cassette tapes of a Julia Cameron lecture that talked about her bestselling book, The Artist's Way. I loved those tapes, one in particular. They were the kind of tapes you could listen to a hundred times, and still get a new insight on the one hundredth listen. Alas, I've still got those tapes, but no cassette player. I think of them often, though, and one theme that frequently visits my life is the idea of an artist's date. This is a special time you, the artist, sets aside for yourself to help refill your creative reservoir. You don't let time-sucking friends over ride it. It's all about you and no one but you. If I remember correctly, she throws out examples that include shopping for buttons or antique maps.

Now that I'm a mom, I have a couple of questions. Does picking up a gallon of milk count as an artist date? See, I was out, picking up milk, on Sunday and I realized that it was the first time I'd been alone in I didn't know how long. The radio was on in the car and I was listening to Krista Tippet talk to a neuropsychologist about creativity. He was explaining how the brain pathways are different when you think creatively and I realized that I couldn't absorb what he was saying. I couldn't understand it because it was a deep thought, and I almost never have deep thoughts anymore. My thoughts are shallow: "Look your brother in the eye when you say sorry, and say it nicely or it won't mean sorry." "No, you can't have the blue bib because your sister has it and I wish we had two bibs that were identical so that we didn't have this conversation at every meal." "Yes, you can have cherries in your oatmeal." "Good job pooping in the big potty upstairs!"

I remembered the famous essay by Virginia Wolfe, A Room of One's Own, where she talks about how important it is for people to have privacy to create. Not all that long ago, when I was single, I had plenty of privacy. I had hour upon hour all to myself. I had lots of time to think, and my thoughts were more complex than they are now. I have a harder time keeping up with complicated thought processes because I'm out of practice. That's okay. Childhood is fleeting. I'll have plenty of time later to exercise my deep thoughts muscles.

But I did start thinking that I need to be better about artist dates. I can't spend two hours browsing aimlessly in a hardware store anymore. But I can custom design quicker dates that suit my current life. Here are some ideas. I'll add to the list as I think of others.

1. Sit in complete silence for 15 minutes.

2. Take a yoga class.

3. Sit outside on my stoop while my kids are "napping" and draw a picture of the cement sidewalk (or something else nearby that I rarely look at carefully).

4. Turn off internet for an entire day. (This doesn't count as a date, but while internet free, I'd be interested to see what I end up doing with myself.)
5. Spend twenty minutes in a shop where I know I'm never going to buy anything. (Bike shop, carpet store? My idea is to explore a new area without tasks and chores (things I need to buy) being part of the equation.

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