In Julia Cameron’s book, THE ARTIST WAY, she talks about the “artist date.” 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. The artist date is an excursion, a play date that you preplan and defend against all interlopers. You do not take anyone on this artists date but you and your inner artist.”
I used to do artist dates all the time. And then I became an “artist” (writer), and artist dates stopped. Why did I need an artist date? My career was an artist date, wasn’t it? I didn’t have time for artist dates anymore. I had more important things to do–blog interviews to write, stories to edit, workshops to teach. Why on earth did I need an artist date?
And then, I hit the wall.
It’s been an incredibly challenging last two months. My Grandfather died, there was a trip back to the Midwest, a few weeks later, a good friend from college died suddenly, and then last Sunday, I found my cat torn to shreds on my front door step. I rushed her to the emergency vet to be told she looked fine on the x-rays and they would stitch her up. I could pick her up in the morning. At midnight, I got a call, she had died suddenly coming out of her pain medicine. She was two.
Somehow, through all of this, I met my writing deadlines. I am a writer, by gosh, and I’ll meet those deadlines! I turned in a Christmas Romance Novella which is third in the sailor series. I turned in a spin-off Christmas story to STAINED GLASS SUMMER, and I lined up school visits and workshops for the Fall. I answered my emails, posted blog entries, and carried on like everything was fine.
And then, I hit the wall. As a small business person, I don’t have “weekends.” There is always something I need to do to keep the balls in the air. The added” benefit” of being able to check email, etc by phone doesn’t help with the lack of weekends. Usually, I think this works fine. Until lately. And so, on Tuesday, after a morning yoga session, I put the dog in the car and we got on the ferry to Whidbey Island. We’ve been having a beautiful Fall and I feel as if I’m missing the whole thing in a sea of fog. It’s amazing to me how it doesn’t take much in the Pacific Northwest to get away from the hustle and bustle. There was no line on the ferry. It pulled out of the dock in ten minutes, and suddenly, I was awash in blue water and mountains with a very clear sky.
I spent the afternoon on the Island. I browsed the shops. I looked at books and got ideas for my yard. I ate a piece of pizza. I took the dog to the off-leash beach. He ran off-leash and chased his ball. I drank coffee. I took the dog to an off-leash trail area and he played with a couple island dogs. I only thought about a story idea–once. (Sometimes it’s just hard to turn that part off) And then, at sunset, I got back on the ferry and rode it the 20 minutes back across the water. I only checked my email on my phone once. Just once.
It was amazing what a little trip across the water on a ferry can do for one’s creative soul. And it reminded me….a working artist needs artist dates, too.