The Powerful Magic (& Science) of Artist Dates

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Last week, I was talking with a creative coaching client about the importance of artist dates. If you’re not familiar with the concept, artist dates are a weekly commitment to take yourself out and do something that interests and intrigues you. They are a window for inspiration, rejuvenation and remembering how to play—something most of us forget to do as adults.An artist date might involve taking a trip to a local art gallery to peruse at your leisure for a couple of hours. It might involve setting aside an afternoon to cut interesting words, phrases and images out of magazines and create a collage for the fun of it. Artist dates do not have to involve “serious” creative endeavours (in fact, it’s better if they don’t).As Julia Cameron, creator of The Artist’s Way (and the concept of artist dates) explains: “The Artist Date is a once-weekly, festive, solo expedition to explore something that interests you. The Artist Date need not be overtly “artistic” — think mischief more than mastery…When choosing an Artist Date, it is good to ask yourself, “what sounds fun?” — and then allow yourself to try it.

The Magic and Science of Artist Dates

Why (and how) Artist Dates Work

Artist dates are fun and a great opportunity to explore our curiosity, but I’ve also found them to be a useful in other ways too.[Tweet "Want to deepen your creativity? Try these tips for going on an artist date."]They are great for getting clarity on sticky situations and decisions—simply because they give us a solid window of time when we’re not thinking about that particular thing. I know when I do regular artist dates, I feel far more grounded, together, clear and confident.These dates help me get out of my head (which is where I can spend most of my time if I’m not careful), and shift from intellectualising everything to relying on my intuition (which I also call my “internal GPS”). This sounds a little esoteric, but psychologists have a name for those times when we step back from a project and problem and focus on something else unrelated for a while: the incubation period.In this way, artist dates also deepen our creativity. One definition of creativity is that it’s making connections where previously there were none. In certain contexts, this is also called problem-solving. Research suggests when we take breaks and focus our attention on something unrelated, our creative output increases and, with it, our ability to solve complex problems.

How to Create Your Own Artist Date

Julia Cameron offers a few useful guidelines for artist dates:1. An artist date is a solo activity (a date with yourself, not an opportunity to hang out with friends, something fun to do with the kids, or quality time with a significant other).2. An artist date lasts for at least 2 hours. This might require advance planning. Put an invisible wall around your artist dates and treat them as you would an important meeting—with yourself.3. An artist date is a stand-alone activity, not something to combine with running errands, popping to the supermarket, or other things on your to-do list. See above about the invisible wall.4. An artist date is most effective when done once per week. When life gets busy, this kind of activity can be the first to slide to the bottom of the priorities pile, but that does us more harm than good. For maximum benefit, make time for one artist date each week.Choose an activity (pick something that draws your curiosity or sparks your interest, one of those “wouldn’t-it-be-lovely-to-“ things), schedule it in, then do it.In the next post, I’ll be sharing 52 ideas for artist dates (that’s one per week for the next year) to get you started, as well as a customisable planner you can use to schedule and rate each activity.

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