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Finding God in the Story of Your Life

The artist date

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?

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 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.

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 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.

Damen Ave. el station looking east
 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.

looking north up Michigan Ave. from Art Institute steps

looking north up Michigan Ave. from Art Institute steps

 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).

Millennium Park ice rink

Millennium Park ice rink

 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?

10 Comments

  1. What a wonderful way to spend yesterday, Keri! I had plans to do housework (or as much housework as one can reasonably do with a two-year old helper), and quickly ditched it all in favor of an impromptu playdate at the park.

    Not quite as refreshing as the Art museum, but we all felt better for it! 🙂

  2. What a fabulous idea.

  3. I haven’t had an artist date before, although my mom has always recommended I read The Artist’s Way and I do plan to. Right now I’m reading Living Artfully which is about how all of our creative efforts to nurture ourselves and other in life could be considered our art…maybe it’s a similar theme. Sounds like a wonderful artist date in the city. I do find, like you, that time away in a new surrounding alone is just what I need to refuel and refresh my creativity. Glad you had fun and that your sun is back!

  4. Llama Momma, I love ditching the housework to get outside! warm days in February are rare, we’ve got to take advantage of them.
    And today it’s raining, so we can stay inside and work!

  5. Just a note–there are some folks who don’t like me recommending Julia Cameron. I don’t agree with 100 percent of the things she teaches. But I believe that you, my readers, are discerning enough to read books by people with differing world views, and to take what’s helpful and leave the rest. She says some very helpful things, and some things you may or may not agree with. I assume you’ll be able to sort that out, as I have.

  6. Keri, the Julia Cameron book is on my nightstand, has been for several years, and for me it complements nicely “The Garden Of Your Soul”. I need lots of reminders to take care of myself…

  7. Oh yes, I’ve love Artist Dates…. and I love Julia Cameron’s book, The Right to Write! In fact, I blogged about both myself, so I enjoyed coming across your site (for my first time) as well as your posting! (http://awordfromhome.blogspot.com/2008/09/day-16-book-artist-date.html)

    Maybe kindred spirits??

  8. Julia Cameron, whose book you recommend, is much more than “artsy” or “pop-psycholigy-ish.” Julia Cameron is a New Ager who believes in reincanartion and teaches at New Age retreats. Many people would not want to read something by a New Ager; I think you should be more clear in your warnings. Personally, having been in the New Age for close to 20 years before I encountered the true Jesus, I can attest to the subtle deception of the New Age.

    I’m sure Cameron has good things to say; most New Age stuff does. This is exactly why it is so beguilingly deceptive. It’s a mixture of some things that are true or seem true with a beautiful but deadly spirituality.

  9. Marcia
    thanks for stopping by and offering your input. I’m delighted to hear that you found Jesus.
    Read carefully, I didn’t say that Julia is “artsy”–I said this particular book is.
    Just because I recommend one idea in one book doesn’t mean I’m giving a blanket endorsement to everything Julia Cameron ever wrote, said or thought about. Check out my post on “Can I quote you on that?” at http://keriwyattkent.com/soul/?p=365

    Those 20 years that you were into New Age–Jesus was seeking you out, until he found you. Would that not also be true for others who are still embracing New Age philosophies?

    I think the idea of taking time to be alone, absorbing beauty, is a good one. So I will engage in that practice. I also like to pray. Muslims and New Agers pray, too. That doesn’t make it a bad practice, and praying doesn’t make me a Muslim or a New Ager. Do you see the connection?

  10. Keri, thank you for your reply. I would like to point out that I realize Christians can quote from non-Christian sources, but I think in doing so, one should give a disclaimer or at least some kind of warning that the person advocates a spirituality opposed to Christianity, as in this case, especially if many people may not be aware of that person’s beliefs. My ministry deals with the New Age and in my experience, many Christians seem unable to recognize the more subtle New Age teachings which, nevertheless, undermine Christian teachings.

    No, most New Agers do not pray at all; if they do, it is usually due to a syncretization of New Age with some Christian exposure in their background or possibly a habit from their past. However, the New Age concept of God does not lend itself to prayer. And the prayers of Muslims are prescribed; they are not at all the way Christians pray. So the term “pray” does not really have the same meaning. This is one of my concerns: New Agers may use the same terms as Christians but mean something else entirely by them. I have watched and seen since I was saved in late 1990 how mainstream the New Age has become and how it is infiltrating even the church.

    Yes, God can save New Agers, of course, but that is not the point here. Being alone and absorbing beauty is a fine idea, but I don’t think we need a New Ager to tell us how to do it. I am too aware of the underlying worldview to be comfortable advocating any book by a New Ager, since their worldview informs all their choices, how they see themselves and others, and how they view God. I posted mainly to let people know that Cameron is a New Ager. I think that should be stated.

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