An Artist Date? I Took My Artist on a Romantic Getaway!

Ever since I finished my A Year in the Life project, I’ve been working through the writing exercises in Julia Cameron’s The Right to Write. Last week, the chapter “The Well” prescribed taking yourself on an “artist date” — but NOT writing about it afterwards. According to Julia, the idea was to “fill the well,” not “draw from it.”

Julia Cameron prescribes three regular activities to sustain a life of creativity. These activities are:

  1. Morning pages – 3 pages of journaling every morning (I cheat and don’t do these every day – just Mon – Thurs.)
  2. Artist Dates – a once-a-week outing to someplace that stimulates your senses, undertaken alone.
  3. Regular walks to allow thoughts to synthesize (this one is also easy for me, since I have a dog and walk or “bike” him almost every day.)

Of the three activities, the Artist Dates are the hardest to commit to for me. As an introvert, I just don’t like going out all that much. And I worry about what these outings might cost, and fear I am not creative enough to devise weekly excursions that DON’T cost money.

Still, I was in luck last weekend, because “The Well” chapter corresponded with South Dakota’s annual Festival of Books. My husband had a prior commitment, which meant I attended the two-day festival alone. It was an Artist’s Date Deluxe!

One might think that attending lectures by various authors would do more to stimulate the mind than the senses, and indeed I found my writer’s mind opening and expanding with excitement and inspiration as I attended sessions by Kate DiCamillo, Kathleen Norris, Joseph Bruchac, Sonia Manzano (Maria from Sesame Street!), and Karin Slaughter.

But to my pleasant surprise, the lineup provided more than just intellectual fodder. Following Kate DiCamillo’s keynote speech on Friday night, Native American storyteller and dancer Kevin Locke ran historical images of American Indians on a projector while he played a traditional flute, then performed a “circle dance” during which, at one point, he had 28 hoops adorning his body at once. The next day, Joseph Bruchac raised goosebumps on my skin with his chilling oral rendition of “Skeleton Man,” a traditional Mowhawk folktale. And my eyes filled with tears when Sonia Manzano played a three-minute clip of Maria’s “highlights” from Sesame Street, bringing me back to my childhood in an instant, and the way I insisted my mom wake me up early on the day that the episode of Maria’s wedding played — I just had to catch the 7 am showing rather than the 10 am one (although I watched it again at 10 and on video many times after.)

When I saw the clip again for the first time in almost thirty years, I saw it with the eyes of someone who has completed that rite of passage myself, and I felt touched by how nuanced and authentic Manzano’s portrayal of bridal nerves were even for such a young audience. It affirms to me that even as children we can intuit what touches the truly Real in the entertainment that comes into our lives.

So, my inner artist was good and pampered after last weekend — not to mention my inner child. I can’t wait to see where she takes me next.