When you’re working your way through The Artist’s Way, morning pages and artist dates become a way of life. But what happens when you feel like you’re fresh out of The Artist’s Way artist date ideas?
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It’s inevitable. You do all the things that readily come to mind. And then you’re in an artist date rut.
For the uninitiated, or for those who want to skip reading The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron and just want to implement some creative self-care practices, artist dates are once weekly activities. For about an hour, you step out of your comfort zone and do a little thing just for fun.
It doesn’t have to be related to art necessarily. It can be just a fun outing.
The idea is to get out your own head. It’s a way to refill the creative well and enjoy yourself. It doesn’t cure burnout, but it can be part of a routine to keep you from burning out.
The Artist’s Way Artist Date Ideas
Back in 2019, I wrote this post chock full of artist date ideas. But the world has changed, and maybe you don’t want to be in such public places, or maybe you’ve already exhausted this list.
So, it’s with that in mind that I bring you these ideas for The Artist’s Way artist dates.
Stare out a window.
Does this seem like a stupid suggestion? Maybe it is.
But here’s the deal. Back in 2005, a creative writing professor told my class that sometimes, as a writer, you just need to stare out a window and that’s your writing for the day.
I took that to heart, and have been staring out windows and off into space ever since.
I find that sometimes, just cultivating an active daydreaming habit is enough of a break from real life and the work you do as an artist.
The key to making this work for you is to make sure you don’t check your phone during your hour of staring out the window. Play some music that makes you feel super dreamy. Maybe pour yourself a hot cup of tea.
Then, get cozy and just stare. When you’re done, you can do whatever you want to with the ideas you have. Or you can just go about your day. No pressure.
Go for a drive.
Sometimes I want to leave my house, but I don’t want to go anywhere.
Back when I lived in Norman, Oklahoma, I loved to drive east along Highway 9 and just enjoy the trees that lined that highway. Now, I live in a flatter, less forested part of the state, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t fun scenic drives.
Grab a soda and your favorite chewing gum. Queue up a playlist. Get in the car.
You can drive wherever you want. Maybe you go through an old, historic neighborhood and admire the architecture. Maybe you drive past sprawling cornfields.
Maybe you find your way to an abandoned superfund site. (Do not go into that site though. Like, that’s a bad idea, and superhero rules don’t apply to toxic waste exposure in real life.)
The possibilities are endless.
Go to the lake.
There is no shortage of lakes where I live, and there are plenty with walking trails and parks and just a ton of things to do.
I think the key here for this to work as an artist date is to be as outside as possible. Leave your phone in your back pocket and just notice stuff.
You can sit on the ground or walk around or climb a tree or whatever. Just be there, at the lake.
Don’t put a lot of expectations on this event. Maybe you’ll enjoy it. Maybe you won’t. Perhaps you’ll hop in a kayak and paddle across the water never to be heard from again.
It’s up to you how this goes.
(Personally, I’d probably just walk around the lake.)
Sit in the park.
Do you have a nice park nearby? Just go sit there.
Seriously. That’s all you gotta do.
I guess you could bring a notebook or something. Maybe you could listen to music while you sit on the park bench and do a version of starting out the window, but in HD since you’re in the outdoors.
Make this experience whatever you need it to be.
And please know that if I headed off into the park for an artist date, there’s a non-zero chance that I would spend all my time on the swings. It would definitely make me puke because I’m old and motion sickness hits hard these days. But I would be so happy before I did.
Do a Lego set or jigsaw puzzle.
Growing up, I never played much with Legos. They were always in classrooms, and my brother had a bunch. But I never did an actual set.
Until my thirty-sixth birthday. It was rad.
I love the experience of building something. And even though you’re really just following directions to make something, it’s definitely a dopamine rush when you get it right.
Same thing with jigsaw puzzles. It’s nice to sit calmly in one place and achieve a thing.
Again, you can pour yourself a cup of tea for this activity and just enjoy your time. I also recommend having a tasty snack as you work.
Plan a retreat.
Hear me out on this one.
I love planning things. It tickles a part of my brain that doesn’t often get tickled. So, I try to plan as much as possible.
Right now, with the state of the pandemic, I’m not comfortable going on a full-blown retreat. But I do like planning them still.
So it’s kind of nice to just sit down and trawl through AirBnB and find the perfect cabin for writing your next novel. I also look at camp sites and lake cabins. I make lists for the things I would bring and what I’d like my daily itinerary to look like.
Maybe this isn’t your cup of tea, but it’s one of my favorite things to do. I just have to be careful about it and save it for artist date time.
Otherwise, I’ll spend all my writing time planning retreats. This is why I block AirBnB on my computer most days–to prevent the procrastination temptation.
Hang out in a garden.
Flowers are neat. I can’t grow them, but I appreciate them.
If you’ve got a nice garden, just take some time to sit in it and enjoy the fruits of your labor. You can sketch the flowers you grew, or daydream about all the new plants you’d like to grow.
And if you don’t have a garden, head to the plant section of your local hardware store, or to a local nursery. You can window shop or actually shop. It’s up to you. Basically, I’m saying that the outdoors are great, and sometimes you should enjoy what grows there.
But let’s be real. If you need to, make sure you take some allergy medicine. I know that if I didn’t, this artist date wouldn’t be possible.
Cook something new.
I recently got into cooking. I used to hate it. Then I tolerated it. And now, I kind of enjoy it.
The act of cooking something new can be a lot of fun, and it’s always nice to use your hands for an art that has such delightful results.
Scroll through Pinterest for your favorite recipe or check out a cookbook from your library. Find something that you’d like to eat, and then gather your ingredients.
Once your done, you can share the fruits of your artist date labor with friends or family.
Listen to a record from start to finish with headphones on.
I tend to listen mostly to playlists that skip around with no real flow. So when I listen to a record all the way through, I get a full-on story.
I like the idea of sitting in a cozy chair or on the couch, or even laying in bed and staring up at the ceiling with some headphones on as the music plays.
Let whatever story the record is trying to tell take you away, and bonus points if it’s thematically consistent with the project you’re working on.
Read a book you wouldn’t normally pick up.
I love reading out of my comfort zone. Sometimes.
I will say that there are genres that I just can’t get into, but for the most part, reading out of my comfort zone is like taking a tiny vacation.
So, instead of reading fantasy, romance, and mainstream fiction, I may pick up some military sci fi. Or I might try some historical fiction. I have been known to read a western on occasion.
For this to work as an artist date, I do recommend finding something that’s on the shorter side. You’re not going to get very far into something you’re not used to reading, so it can be demoralizing to set aside an hour to read something, and realize you have 950 pages left when that hour is up.
There are tons of novellas and short stories for cheap on Kindle, and you can get a lot of them for free as reader magnets.
(Sometimes, they’re linked at the bottom of my newsletter. And you can get one of my short stories right here.)
Grab a black felt tip pen and fill up a sheet of paper.
Zentangles or thoughtful art, whatever you call it, is some supremely meditative shit.
Grab yourself a piece of printer paper and grab a felt tip pen. I’m partial to a Tombow Fudenosuke or the Pentel Sign Pen, and I would never say no to a good Paper Mate Flair Felt Tip Pen.
Put on some music and just sit down to fill the page.
You can doodle. You can draw a whole scene. You can connect squiggles and shapes. Whatever you want to do is cool. Just make sure you’re not criticizing your work. This is an act of just having a good time and getting away from your inner critic.
Don’t ruin this artist date idea by being super critical of what you do.
Scroll through a museum’s Instagram feed.
I love going to a museum. Sometimes, that’s not possible.
Thank goodness a lot of museums share what they have inside on Instagram.
And look. I know that encouraging Instagram scrolling may not seem like a great artist date idea. But it is, dammit.
You do have to stay on their feed, and it might be a good idea to turn off any notifications on your phone during that time. You can also scroll through on your laptop, which will have less distractions.
But take a look at all the art you want. Get yourself some good visual inspiration/stimulation.
As a writer, I love a good free writing exercise. But I don’t let myself do it nearly enough.
So, for this artist date, all you need is a notebook and a pen. And then you sit there for an hour and write.
Feel free to use a computer if typing is more your thing. And talk-to-text is perfectly acceptable to. All your doing is getting ideas out of your head and onto the page.
At the end, you’re going to have a ton of stuff you never even knew you thought about. Just let the ideas lead, like the good dance partner they are.
What other The Artist’s Way Artist Date Ideas Do You Have?
How have you been incorporating artist dates into your life? What’s your favorite artist date idea? Is there an artist date you come back to again and again?