‘Artist Dates are assigned play’
Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way
(If you enjoy this post, you might like to visit my new website, EllenBard.com, which has plenty of innovative ideas to make your life and work sparkle, including an updated and expanded gorgeous version of the below in pdf form, called: ‘101 Ideas to Boost Your Creativity, Have Fun, and Play’)
In this post, I want to share with you a concept I’ve really enjoyed whilst travelling, from the course ‘The Artist’s Way’ (by Julia Cameron), something I’ve been working my way through. I’ve mentioned this before in a couple of posts, for example, in ‘An Evening In(spired)’. It’s been a fantastic companion to my travelling, genuinely inspiring me and increasing my joy in everyday things.
For background, The Artist’s Way is a 12-week course, which consists of exercises and activities you complete yourself. There are two key ‘basic tools’ that run throughout the course, that of ‘Morning Pages’ (essentially free writing for 30minutes every morning), and the idea of The Artist Date.
What is an Artist Date?
The Artist Date (hear Julia Cameron’s own description of it here) is the idea of making time for yourself, once a week, on your own, to do something ‘enchanting’. To play, have fun, or do something that nourishes you. Now, before you dismiss this as hippy nonsense ;-), there are strong psychological foundations for the importance of play in adults, and here’s a TED talk from psychiatrist and researcher Dr Stuart Brown whose research supports this – as well as gorgeous pics of polar bears and other animals, the TED talk shows how play is energising, ensures healthy human development and increased intelligence. Ready to read on?(!)
Starting the course, the idea of play in terms of my own life was a bit of a foreign concept to me. One of the reasons I decided to resign from my job and take some time travelling, is that my life had become mostly about just two things, work, and health. These two things dominated my life, and there wasn’t much room for anything else. So the idea of The Artist Date was perfectly timed to support me creating a more balanced life. At first, I had difficulty even thinking of what I might do – which was crazy given I was in a new country with endless time available to me. I browsed the web for inspiration, and found an excellent resource of 101 Artist Date ideas. But I quickly started to be creative and come up with ideas in my own right, and it’s now about how many can I fit in rather than what will I do.
So far, my Artist Dates have included:
- An afternoon out with my camera, taking photos of anything I found interesting
- Taking an art class
- A visit to the Sunday Walking Street Market
- Going to a Buddhist temple and attending ‘Monk Chat’ to ask Buddhist monks about their daily lives and Buddhism
All these experiences have been really enjoyable, and gently pushed me out of my comfort zone, encouraging me think about the world differently.
Try an Artist Date yourself
I would love for you to try out a mini-version of The Artist Date, and to include more play in your life. To make it really easy, start with only 20 minutes or an hour and choose something from the list below. I’ve put lots of links in to help – they’re all links I’ve found or recommend (not sponsored!).
An Artist Date doesn’t have to cost anything – libraries for example are a great resource, as are pound shops (‘five and dimes’), charity shops and the internet. Some of the dates are seasonal, and all will appeal to some of you more than others. For your first AD, pick the thing you most want to do, but for your second or third, try something which pushes you out of your comfort zone a bit more.
NB: All photos are mine, but UK ones are pre-Thailand!
99 Artist Date Ideas
Add your own ideas into the comments on the post to expand the list!
- Look up the top rated ‘things to do’ in your town on a site like Trip Advisor. Pick something that you fancy trying.
- Buy some plasticine. Make models and act out the best scenes from your life.
- Walk in a forest. Collect pretty leaves.
- Spend time making an area of your home beautiful.
- Climb a tree.
- Buy new bed linen in gorgeous fabrics and colours.
- Go on a guided walk or tour of your own town.
- Plant something.
- Visit a museum gift shop and take photos of crafts and momentos.
- Make an image board of where you would like to go on your next holiday – find a pile of old magazines, tear out any images you like, and stick them on a big piece of paper.
- Take £5 to the pound shop, and see how little you can spend on things to play with.
- Visit a National Trust property, and imagine you actually live there.
- Go to the charity shop and buy a book with a story that’s new to you, or that you wouldn’t normally be interested in. Read it.
- Be a tourist in your own town – go to the tourist information office where you live and pick a tourist activity to do.
- Buy a colouring book and some pencils, and spend an afternoon colouring in.
- Go to a restaurant and try a dish or cuisine you haven’t tried before.
- Go to the cinema on your own.
- Go to an independent café and sit for a couple of hours, just watching the people go by. Make notes on interesting conversations you hear.
- Spend an afternoon writing the plotline of a novel you might write one day.
- Mind map a decision that you’ve been thinking about.
- Go to the beach and collect pretty or interesting shells and stones.
- Collect gorgeous flowers and press them in a heavy book.
- Write a long letter to someone important in your life and send it to them.
- Write 5 anonymous love letters and scatter them round your town.
- Do something that scares you.
- Visit a church, temple, mosque, synagogue of a religion you don’t follow. Respect their customs and try to understand a little more of their beliefs.
- Cook something you haven’t tried before.
- Try some origami.
- Put a key word like ‘inspiration’ or ‘courageous’ into TED and watch 5 of the videos that come up.
- Visit another city – take the bus.
- Write down 10 people who inspire you. Write down why. Write down one thing you could do inspired by them. Do it.
- Do something physical. I LOVE Krav Maga – it always feels like play despite the bruises. Try a dance, martial arts, or yoga class.
- Paint something in or outside your home (a fence, a shed, or a chest of drawers).
- Go to a home store, like Ikea, and take pictures of items that you find beautiful. Start an image file of your perfect house.
- Write down the 8 guests (anyone, alive or dead), plus one entertainer (group or an individual, musical, comedy, actor etc) for your perfect dinner party.
- Try a short meditation or mindfulness practice.
- Go to School of Life class.
- Go for a run in a natural environment.
- Go to a market, like Borough food market in London, or Chatuchak Market in Bangkok. Set yourself a budget and come home with something you wouldn’t normally buy.
- Write a list of 30 of your best qualities.
- Put on some songs to which you know the words (or look the words up on the internet) and sing along for an hour to songs which make you happy. Use the hairbrush or a paint roller etc as a microphone.
- Go out and take photos of everything that you see that is red (or blue etc). Make a collage on your computer or better still, print the photos out and make a collage in a frame.
- Read some travel writing about a place you’ve never been.
- Watch the sun rise/set.
- Paint a picture.
- Have afternoon tea on your own – bake something for yourself; go mad and use the milk jug.
- Try out a language lesson.
- Learn how to do something by watching a video on YouTube.
- Go to the lingerie store and buy something nice (boys too – fancy socks or boxer shorts still count!).
- Consider 5 different career paths (be as adventurous as you like). Do something which links to one of those career paths (e.g. if you thought about being a pirate, visit the Cutty Sark or go sailing for the afternoon).
- Buy yourself flowers from a real florist. Hand pick each bloom and let them make them up into a beautiful bouquet all for you.
- Look through old photos.
- Pick a special holiday or place (where you took a lot of photos) and make a photo book.
- Write a poem.
- Write a limerick.
- Write a haiku.
- Have a massage or other pampering body treatment.
- Do a spa at home – have a bath with candles, a facemask, chocolate (or your treat of choice) and do your toenails with a more adventurous colour than normal!
- If you like showers, have a bath. If you like baths, have a shower.
- Imagine what your life would have been if you lived 200 years ago. Write out a day in the life.
- Go accessory (tie, belt, necklace, scarf, bracelet, hat) shopping and buy something more adventurous than normal.
- Learn to juggle.
- Do a jigsaw puzzle.
- Buy yourself some erotica (I know, daring right?!) and spend an afternoon at home.
- Invent a new cocktail (try a few ideas out). Give it an outrageous name.
- Go to a department store and try out new scents. Take the testers you like home and put them in your clothes drawers
- Write a ‘bucket-list’.
- Dress up in different outfits and take some self-portraits.
- Draw a fun map representing your life’s journey. Give the places along the way fun names, like ‘City of Joy’ or ‘Stream of self-esteem’. Make sure you include your hoped for future.
- Make a bonfire.
- Make a snowperson.
- Make sandcastles at the beach.
- Go for a walk in dry leaves, kicking up piles.
- Go blackberry/elderflower/other wild things collecting, and make jam/crumble/cordial.
- ‘Declutter’ a room (or a drawer if a room is too big a start!).
- Visit a fun fair or theme park on your own.
- Make a fort/den out of blankets, cushions, pillows, chairs and tables. Snuggle into it and read a book and drink hot chocolate or herbal tea.
- Visit a garden and take photos of flowers, trees and beautiful natural things. Come home and make up a collage picture and put it on your desk at work.
- Pick 10 songs you used to dance to when you were a teenager and have a disco in your living room.
- Listen to the audiobook version of a novel you adore.
- Watch a documentary that makes you think.
- Go to a populated place and smile wholeheartedly at at least 20 people.
- Go to the toy store (or toy section of your local charity shop). Buy something and play with it.
- Start a blog.
- Pick an album you love, lie on your sofa and listen to it all the way through, doing nothing other than daydreaming about the words and music.
- Read something with a viewpoint diametrically opposed to your own.
- Dust off whatever musical instrument you used to own and play through a basic songbook.
- Go to the theatre and see whatever’s on.
- Celebrate something small: getting up on time; that it’s the weekend; that you’ve done the food shopping for the week.
- Fix something in your house that’s broken – a dripping tap, a button missing, a seam hanging down, a drawer that sticks.
- Send 10 postcards even though you’re at home.
- Give blood.
- Make your own ‘scavenger hunt’ – decide on 20 things you need to find and then head out for an afternoon to take photos or bring them home.
- Fly a kite.
- Bake bread.
- Prepare a luxurious three course dinner just for yourself, and take your time eating it.
- Make your own list of Artist Dates and add them to the comments below!
Want this post in PDF form? My other website, EllenBard.com, has this post as a beautiful PDF, called: ‘101 Ideas to Boost Your Creativity, Have Fun, and Play!’ Download it here.