Feeling uninspired and overwhelmed can happen to all of us – even creative professionals – but treating yourself to a fun, engaging experience could reignite your flame
As much as I love writing, there are times when being creative feels like a chore. I recently stumbled on the idea of ‘artist dates’, popularised by the author Julia Cameron. Put simply, artist dates are where we do something fun and enjoyable on our own to nurture ourselves, with an emphasis on these activities being playful. The idea is that this helps our creativity, but we don’t go on an artist date with a specific project or goal in mind.
An artist date can be everything from going to a funfair to a nature walk, seeing a film, or going to a petting zoo. These aren’t just for those who may already see themselves as artists – everyone can benefit from something that kindles their creativity.
The benefits of artist dates
“Regularly taking ourselves on an artist date can feel like a lovely and freeing treat to relax us, and give us a sense that we are really taking time for ourselves,” psychotherapist Nina Bradshaw says. “I recently treated myself to a class learning to spin wool into yarn. It felt so nice to be giving myself this opportunity to do something fun, creative, and relaxing.”
Taking time to nurture our creative selves, whether through artist dates or other activities, can support our wellbeing. “Creativity is the well-spring of life and aliveness,” says Nina. “When we get caught up in the pressure to do, to perform, to keep on top of things, and always feeling under pressure, this can lead to burnout, or even depression. Focusing on our creativity and trying to switch off the busy mindset can really help us to feel less stressed and more alive, and able to enjoy life.”
Going on an artist date
I was curious to see how taking myself on some artist dates could help. To start, I went for a walk through a local park, letting my mind wander as I walked without purpose. The geese honked in the pond, the breeze whipped my hair, and I felt relaxed. I found myself wondering about everyone I passed – what’s the story behind the person sitting on the bench with a book? Or the woman watching as her children throw seed for the ducks? The child mesmerised by a squirrel? Later, I realised how this walk had sparked my creativity without me even intending it to.
Things like artist dates are about nurturing our creative selves and supporting our wellbeing, without it being a task. This can be hard as we’re so used to everything having a set purpose.
“We can get so caught up in the day-to-day, the ‘to-do’ list, and always feel like we need to be on the go. Artist dates can free us from this sense of busyness and allow us to reset and recharge, leaving us feeling refreshed and more able to face the usual tasks we have to do,” explains Nina. “This, for me, is a very important way of caring for myself, allowing my mind to wander and to be more mindful, and less caught up in racing thoughts and productivity.”
Artist dates are typically done alone, which can seem daunting. “Some people may feel quite self-conscious about it at first, but I say once you get over the initial nerves, it can really feel liberating and uplifting to do this thing for yourself, and to enjoy spending time in your own company,” emphasises Nina.
Another day, I visited a museum by myself. I was slightly self-conscious as I wandered in, but soon, I was lost in exploring the exhibitions. It was nice to go at my own pace. I then got a coffee in the museum café, and did some writing inspired by the experience. It felt nourishing to have crafted out that time just for me.
Other ways to nurture your creative self
Artist dates are a great activity, and there are lots of other ways we can bring more creativity into our lives.
I ask Nina how we can do so. “I hear many people say, ‘Oh I’m not creative at all!’ But I think we are all creative,” she says. “It might not be obvious, but try to notice and pay attention to the little things that we are already doing. It could be you made a delicious meal for your family, or you decorated your living room in a really pleasant and tasteful way. Even that you managed to juggle a dozen tasks in a smooth and efficient way! These are all little things to notice, ways in which we may be creative and don’t always appreciate that they are creative. This can lead to thinking about creativity in a different and more self-affirming way.”
My plan is to make more time to go on artist dates, realising the difference they can make. And as Nina says, it’s also about noticing the ways we are creative already. My legendary homemade chocolate tiffin that I bring to every get-together? That is creativity! I listen (and dance around the kitchen) to some Fleetwood Mac while I stir the ingredients, and realise that moments like this are just as worthy of acknowledging as creative as a day sitting at my laptop writing.
So craft out some time to do something for the joy of it – you may be surprised at where it leads you.