The artist date is a wonderful exercise with a number of significant benefits. It enables you to practice making a commitment to yourself, and it demands that you create space and time for yourself. It also requires you to find a way to have more fun in your life. Each of these benefits will help you in multiple ways on the self-development path.
If you are determined to change something in your life, you need to be able to follow through on your commitment to change. And sometimes this is not easy. As you begin to make progress, you will encounter various temptations to go back to the way your life was before. Some people are naturally self-disciplined, or have taught themselves to be. If that’s not you, you will have to practice putting new elements into your life, and making sure these improvements stay there. This exercise can help with achieving that goal.
It’s also crucial to be able to create space for your development process. You are going to be experimenting with and evaluating new tools, or installing new routines. All of that will take time and concentration and life energy. So you’ll also need to become good at carving out the space in your life to devote to these changes. Some people have lives that are over-full with obligations, or have challenges managing their time. In such situations, your first task is to find a sustainable way of making room for improvements; this exercise can help with that.
The Artist Date
An artist date is a chunk of time that you set aside and commit to using for your process of creative change. It could be a couple of hours per week, or one day each month. Don’t try to be too ambitious at first. More important is that you choose an amount of time you can commit to over a longer period.
You agree to spending this time alone with your inner artist of life. You don’t arrange to meet anyone during this time, and you don’t bring anyone along with you. No kids or lovers. No excuses. You don’t want to be distracted by the needs of anybody else. This is the time for you to listen without interruptions to your own needs.
You are creating this special time and space in your routine so that you can listen wholeheartedly to parts of you that may not get to express themselves under normal circumstances. Reticent parts, fearful parts, parts that may feel inappropriate or ‘too much’; we all have these aspects of ourselves. For example, this exercise can be very effective in bringing out your inner, creative child. If you are prepared to create the space, and to listen, you may surprised at the insights, impulses and wisdom within you that are often not breaking through to your conscious awareness.
What you choose to do on this date is up to you. You could spend time in nature, or in water. You could visit a bookshop or an exhibition. I love to go to the movies in the afternoon. You could also go and explore an unfamiliar neighborhood, or take a class in something you would never normally consider doing. Let yourself be amazed by the suggestions that come to mind, and select carefully from them.
Dare to introduce this exercise into your routine and watch your life change in myriad positive ways, as the ripple effect of you committing more to yourself. And pay particular attention to the excuses and interruptions that threaten this special time. How easily will you compromise and give up this space by making something or someone else more important? Just watching this will give you very useful insights about how you may be selling yourself short in your life.
Note: I first encountered this exercise from the writer Julia Cameron in her groundbreaking self-help manual, ‘The Artist’s Way’. Cameron’s book is generous, inspired and brilliant, and has deservedly become a classic. It belongs on your self-development bookshelf.