I went on an awesome date with someone new this week. It was fantastic – I even went to the extra effort of dressing up a bit and spritzing on some perfume, something I don’t do very often as a comfortably married, stay-at-home mom. It’s become a weekly thing, this dating stuff.
It started over two months ago, when I picked up the book The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. She suggested a weekly artist date with myself to provide a break from writing, a sort of refueling for creativity’s sake. So that I could think about something other than words and plot and the building romance between the characters I’d been hanging out with for so many months. At first the dates were short and in safe and comfortable locations – the library, the bookstore, the coffee shop. Then I began to feel a little more adventurous and visited the hobby shop and the dollar store, collecting items that would spark my imagination. I know, exciting, right?!
This artist date stuff was starting to make sense by then. It was a good way to take a break, try something new, have a little fun and build up some energy again. Then, one quiet Sunday afternoon, I felt restless with writer’s block and wandered a little mall for reprieve. I stumbled into a Quilt Shop, let my fingers touch soft fabric and my eyes soak in the colors and textures, and it suddenly hit me: this is what artist dates are really for. Without my permission, the creative part of my brain went into overdrive, celebrating with gusto and planning something huge. It wanted to blindside writer’s block, and it was gonna be good.
I went home that evening feeling strangely inspired, not to work on my current story, but to start something new. I didn’t want give up on the manuscript I had already started, but slowly another story started nagging me. It was full of vibrant color and emotion – I could practically feel the story like I’d felt the soft fabric and quilts earlier in the day. I fought the need to write ideas down, sure that I had to finish my current work instead. No distractions! No giving up! I didn’t want to give in.
I went to bed, frustrated and still blocked. And when I closed my eyes, the story began to unfold like a movie on my eyelids. Detailed scenes, wonderful characters, a storyline that made my heart throb. I couldn’t sleep, and writing the ideas quickly on my notepad next to the bed wasn’t going to work either. So I snuck out of bed, tiptoed down the stairs, and in the quiet of the midnight hour I clicked on my desk lamp and wrote my heart out. A complete five-page outline, purged onto wrinkled computer paper with a rusty old pencil, notes scribbled on the sides and excitement spilling off the page. It felt so, so good.
And then I tiptoed back to bed, crawled in next to my husband, and slept like a log. The next morning I silently thanked Julia Cameron and her fabulous artist date idea, dug back into my original manuscript with renewed strength and clarity, and smiled at the outline tucked away in my desk drawer. That baby is quite an incentive to finish my current story, to plug away bit by bit until I finish the first draft. The creative part of my brain knew exactly what I needed to blow up writer’s block and to keep me enthusiastic.
Who knew a simple artist date could be so powerful?