Do you ever feel your creativity is “blocked”? That you are not reaching your full potential? That it’s been so long since you pursued your dreams that you aren’t really sure what your dreams are anymore?
If you aspire to be a writer or any other kind of artist, or if you want to take that creative endeavor to the next level, I recommend Julia Cameron’s book The Artist’s Way. (Caution—it’s a little artsy and pop psychology-ish. If that sort of thing bothers you, don’t read it. Your loss).
One of the “tools” she recommends for unblocking your creativity is the artist date. Cameron writes: “An artist date is a block of time, perhaps two hours weekly, especially set aside and committed to nurturing your creative consciousness, your inner artist. In its most primary form, the artist date is an excursion, a play date that you preplan and defend against all interlopers. You do not take anyone on this artist date but you and your inner artist, a.k.a. your creative child.”
I’ve made a habit of taking time for “artist dates” pretty regularly for the past several years. I’ve gone various places, but I always try to find something beautiful to look at on my excursion. This is no small challenge in Chicago in winter.
Today, though, God gave Chicago a 65 degree day, smack in the middle of February. For me, that’s like a hand-engraved education to set aside my work and take my inner artist to lunch.
I took more than just two hours—since it had been a few weeks since I’d done this, I figured I had the time coming to me. I drove to the Cumberland Ave. CTA station and took the el into the city.
I got off at Damen and had lunch at Penny’s Noodles, a cute little Thai/Vietnamese fusion place with two walls of windows, that look out at the el tracks, an old building, and plenty of people walking by. I’d seen the restaurant on-line and wanted to check it out. It was great, inexpensive and very cool.
After lunch I took a walk down Milwaukee Avenue, window shopping at eclectic thrift shops. I saw a used bookstore I want to go back to explore on a subsequent artist date.
I jumped back on the el, and took it to the Loop. On the train and during lunch, I read, journaled. I watched the people, let my mind make up stories about them. When I wasn’t thinking about it, I got some ideas for future projects, so I just took notes on what my inner artist had to say.
Downtown, I walked around the Loop, watching people, making my way over to Michigan Avenue. I went to the Art Institute for a little while, chose not to go look at the Monet room again—I’ve been there too many times. I wandered a different direction and saw a painting I’d never noticed before. I sat and looked at it for quite a while. After about 40 minutes in the museum (I saw only a few paintings), I wanted to get back out in the sunshine.
I strolled up Michigan Avenue to Millennium Park, where the ice rink was still open—although perhaps a bit slushy. While it’s not as beautiful in winter, there were a lot of people out walking, students sitting on benches studying, winter-weary Chicagoans just blinking at the unexpected sunshine and warmth. Piles of snow, defeated but still lying there, provided odd contrast to people in shirt sleeves (and one brave soul in shorts).
I took photos, sat in the sunshine and wrote in my journal, drank in the vibrant beauty and energy of the city.
I walked back to the el station and caught a train back to the burbs. And that was it. But it is amazing how wandering the city (and on other days, walking in the woods) can revive my soul, and boost my creative energy.
You can do an artist date anywhere—the city, the country, the woods. Poke around an antique shop, visit a gallery or museum. Expose yourself to beauty, but do it alone (even alone in a crowd). Learn to enjoy the solitude.
Self-care, soul care, is not a luxury. It is a necessity, especially if you want to be a writer. My excursion was not expensive—the el is cheap, as is Vietnamese food. I have a membership at the Art Institute, but even if you don’t—it’s free the whole month of February so you have no excuse not to visit if you live anywhere near Chicago.
Even if you are not a writer or artist, it will not hurt you to get unblocked creatively. Any job we do, from mothering to management, we can do better if we let our creativity flow.
Question: What do you do to nurture your soul, to fuel your creativity? have you ever tried an artist date? What happened?