The First Artist’s Date: Shall I join in?

The thing about having friends who write is that they are wont to encourage you along when they have committed to doing some jolly practice to help their own creativity. ‘Do come and join me’, they cajole and do it on Twitter, so publicly, so that others can join in. I want to say, ‘no, not just now. Actually I’m beetling along quite nicely revising the second draft of the novel and I don’t think I can take two hours out to do this thing.’ But because it is Alan and I like the piece he has written in his response to the challenge I give the invitation a little more thought.
The activity comes from Julia Cameron’s well-known cheer book, The Artist’s Way. I know it is much loved as a bible of the creative spirit movement but I find her tone loud and her assumptions about me off the mark. ‘Stop shouting at me!’ I want to squeal as she pours scorn on my limp attempts at creativity. She is at her shoutiest in the section, early in the book, when, having got everyone doing their morning pages (which, for me, are just the same as those morning stretches; I’m simply not built to operate first thing. I take a run up at the day and see if it surprises me, like Bertie Wooster) she launches her second assault – The Artist Date.
The book title is ‘The Artist’s Way’; why is this not ‘The Artist’s Date’? ‘Artist’ is not an adjective. I am riled already.
There is a straightforward description of the structure. The artist is looking to set aside a two-hour block once a week to nurture the inner artist by allowing the inner child to play. No interlopers are allowed; this is YOUR time – do something frivolous, playful, adventurous! In short, free the spirit! Fine but don’t then come at me with what couples with marriage difficulties are often asked by their therapists. This is of no relevance to me. In trying to illustrate the separation of ‘self’ from ‘inner creative self’ she sounds like a column from Women’s Weekly.’ There follows a parade of all the other excuses Julia thinks that we might come up with to deny our inner creative self the freedom it needs to fully express itself. Sorry – don’t presume to make my excuses for me. My response to all of this is to say, ‘this is not me so please stop assuming that I’m in therapy.’
Laying Julia Cameron aside, I know, nonetheless, the benefits of allowing playtime in one’s creative life. I knit without patterns, cook without recipes and read randomly without reviews or recommendations. It is, though, some time since I wrote without a particular aim in mind; the completing of a novel or a short story for a competition or an anthology. So, I accept the offer (I’m not going to see it as a challenge – that way leads to the success/failure cycle and if anything destroys creativity it is surely this) to join in writing a more or less weekly piece generated from my playtime.
Here endeth the first date with my inner self who needed to get that lot off her chest!

6 thoughts on “The First Artist’s Date: Shall I join in?

  1. Reblogged this on Kath Morgan Says and commented:
    It energises me to know others are also taking up the ‘offer’ and enjoying creative play on a weekly basis. I am being very loose in my own interpretation of the challenge. I’m certainly not committing to two hours, being quite sure 15 minutes will sometimes do the job. I’m also determined to make this fun, not a job of work. Here’s hoping for lots of relaxing and enjoyable weeks ahead of aimless writing / playing.

      1. And I like your idea of ‘pointless’ writing time. Like you, I tend to restrict myself to focusing on ‘projects’ and forget to just have fun with it.

  2. Hi Linda, I really enjoyed this post, not least as you’ve given voice to some of my own unease that I was struggling to express. I’m going to give the “challenge” a go for a while and see what happens, although I’m wondering whether I may just end up doing what I’ve always done to free up a creative train of thought, namely go for a walk with no particular purpose.

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