It was Julia Cameron who came up with the idea of making an official artist date in her book, The Artist’s Way. She calls it, ‘a once-weekly, festive, solo expedition to explore something that interests you.’
I made a list last year (it’s at the bottom of this post) of more than 50 possible artist’s dates that I could do. I’m a big one for lists like this because I find the more I write possible activities down, the more ideas I have, whereas if I suddenly say, ‘it’s Tuesday, it’s been a week and I need to go on a date’, then I just freeze and can’t think of anything to do. And of course the key words in that quote above are ‘something that interests you.’ Not something I should be doing, or other people think I should be doing.
So how did it go? And what did I learn? Well, I didn’t get a tattoo. Not yet. But I did make a pinterest board of what I might be like when I’m 80, I went on a guided walk, sat in on a jury trial, planted seeds, learnt a poem by heart, enjoyed a (more than one) excellent breakfast, and many more things. I’ve picked out those above because I don’t think I would have consciously done them if it hadn’t been for my list.
Did it make me a better artist? Not sure, but here are five of the things I think it did give me. All of which are important, not just for an artist, or a writer, but being alive!
I was aware more while I was doing it – I didn’t just go to a cafe for example, but chose the cafe carefully, chose what I was eating. I was generally more mindful.
I travelled out of my comfort zone– which allowed me to realise I could do that and not actually die. Always a plus.
Writing the list in advance and choosing what to do gave me have an element of control over what I did want to do, and what just felt like a nice idea.
I could do these things on my own, and that gave an element of spontaneity which I liked.
Most of all though, it got me making things – wonky, odd, not perfect things (like my plates below) just for the joy of making. I must admit I was surprised to realise I hadn’t been letting myself do this for some time.
So dive in… the water’s lovely.
You can write your own list or copy mine, and I’ll be cheering you on.
(These wonderful girls above are supporting their team at the Women’s Hockey – something that wasn’t on my list and I’d never have gone to if it hadn’t been for this idea! I’ve kept this video and imagine it’s me they’re shouting for whenever I’m starting something new! Let me know how you get on.)
Sarah’s list of Artist’s Dates for 2018…
Write a list of 100 things that would terrify me to do (eg do a stand up comedy act)
Have a fancy cocktail in a bar on my own
Pick a letter – any letter – and go for a walk to take photographs of things beginning with that letter.
Swim in a river
Swim in a lido
Make a herb garden
Take my yoga mat to a park and practise under a tree
Buy five books from a charity shop, write a note in each and leave them for others to find
Go to a new café and enjoy an excellent breakfast
Pack a yummy picnic and a good book to go to a new park, roll out a rug and enjoy
Visit the RFL poetry library and choose five books at random to read
Make a list of London libraries – go to one I’ve never visited
Join in on a life-drawing class
Make the kind of dressing up box I wanted as a child
Take a selfie dressed as the main character of a book I’m reading
Make biscuits and give to friends
Go to a public lecture about a subject I know nothing about (not hard!)
Visit a cemetery I haven’t been to before and make notes
Write a fan letter. Send
Enjoy an afternoon watching TED talks
Go to a concert of a completely new music to me
Take a boat trip
Paint or draw a self portrait
Write a letter to someone I haven’t seen for ten years
Make a playlist of music I haven’t listened to for ten years
Plan a road trip round childhood haunts
Make a list of 100 things that make me happy
Make a miniature garden
Go to a candlelit concert at St Martins
Learn a poem by heart
Record myself reading poetry
Go on a guided walk
Go to a café and plot out a novel I’ll never write
Make a list of at least five strangers I speak to today
Buy seeds (or visit a seed swap) and make beautiful seed packets to send to friends
Got to a chocolate shop and spend a long time choosing just five chocolates to buy
Have my own indoor fireworks show
Make a photo book of the photographs that make me happy
Get a tattoo
Go to a matinee
Create a vision board on Pinterest for me when I’m 80
Create a playlist to give to a friend
Buy a second hand book and create a Blackout poem
Go to 5 Rhythms dance
Go to a park and identify five trees – make a zine
Try on an outfit I’d never be able to afford
Sit in on a jury trial
Go to the opera – research fully beforehand
Go to a lunchtime talk at the National Gallery
Go to the Viktor Wynd Museum of Curiosities
Find the perfect red lipstick
Go to Strawberry Hill
Take note of, and research, the statues I walk past every day
Go to a market – choose interesting looking items, make a still life. Photograph it.
ONLY THREE SHOPPING DAYS LEFT BEFORE CHRISTMAS…. but I had the loveliest free present this morning: a dear friend, John Prebble, recorded himself reading one of the shopping poems from my collection, Transaction, and sent it to me. He read it so beautifully it took me some time to realise it was my own poem! Enjoy the recording just below…
And here’s the poem….
If it’s going to be too sudden,
then I’d rather it didn’t happen.
if there’s not going to be any tenderness,
I’ll just leave now before we both regret.
If we’re not going to try to share,
laugh about it, make it something rare,
I won’t do it. It’ll become too hard.
But if, when I hand over my card,
in that moment of flesh brushing flesh,
meeting of eyes, cheeks burning fresh,
if in that moment, I feel the waves
inside subside, no longer a slave
but a master, all bad thoughts funnelled
into this, then it’s worth it. I’m lulled,
everything that’s gone before a sign,
and it’s more than perfect, it’s sublime.
I’m already longing for the next time.
John and I met properly through The Poetry Exchange, so do listen to some of the podcasts there if you are longing for some poetry discussions over Christmas!