Wednesday, August 15, 2012

"Replenishing our Inner Well"

Like much of the United States, Illinois is experiencing a terrible drought this year. Earlier this month, the USDA declared 98 of Illinois's 102 counties "disaster areas" because of the combination of drought and heat. Interestingly, the county I live in is one of the few NOT designated a disaster area. You'd never guess it from looking at the parched lawns around here.

I was inspired to suggest the topic of "writing droughts" to the TeachingAuthors team after reading "A Writer's (non) Drought"  by my friend Leanne Pankuch on her blog. Leanne quotes a local meteorologist as saying, “Drought begets drought,” and talks about how the phrase is as true about writing as it is about weather. I agree.

On Monday, Mary Ann shared how she uses her journal to "prime the pump" by noting brief observations. Similarly, Leanne finds that journaling at least a page a day helps her get the writing flowing again. I sometimes use similar techniques. However, one of my favorite ways to deal with a writing drought is to go on what Julia Cameron calls an "Artist Date" in her book, The Artist's Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity (Tarcher Books). 
If you're not familiar with the term, here's Cameron's description of it from her blog:
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. Artist Dates fire up the imagination. They spark whimsy. They encourage play. Since art is about the play of ideas, they feed our creative work by replenishing our inner well of images and inspiration.
If you have two minutes, I recommend you watch this videoclip of Cameron describing how an Artist Date works before reading on.

© Jusben @ Morguefile, used with permission
When I found the adjacent photo on Morguefile, I thought it a great image to represent what Cameron calls "replenishing our inner wells." (Click on the image to enlarge it.) The photographer says the photo is of "water flow at the Holy Well in Edington Somersetshire England." To me, the inner source of our creativity is indeed "holy."

That doesn't mean an Artist Date is a solemn occasion. Here are examples of some I've taken:
  • visiting a large garden center and walking around the blooming plants and garden decorations
  • browsing an arts and craft fair, enjoying art in many different forms
  • cutting out interesting images from magazines and gluing them into a collage
  • using rubber stamps of flowers and plants to create an image and then coloring it in with colored pencils
While I enjoyed all of the above, I found the last two especially fun. I don't consider myself at all "artistic"--I tell people I can't even draw a decent stick figure. So finding that I could create, with my own hands, something I found visually appealing was very affirming. Plus, using colored pencils made me feel like a kid again. (I'm smiling just remembering the experience.) And the process must have activated the creative center of my brain because I came up with all sorts of wonderful ideas. 
Funny--despite how much I enjoy Artist Dates, I can't remember when I last took one. I think it's time I do. There's no need to wait for a writing drought. See the (un)Writing Workout below for more on planning your own Artist Date. And if you have additional ideas for Artist Date activities, or would like to share your own Artist Date experiences, please post a comment below.

And don't forget--time is running out to enter our Mystery Guest TeachingAuthor giveaway. You must enter by 11 pm (CST) tomorrow, August 16.   

(un)Writing Workout:
Take an Artist Date

In the book The Artist's Way, Julia Cameron says,
"An artist date is a block of time, perhaps two hours weekly, especially set aside and committed to nurturing your creative consciousness, your inner artist."
It's basically a play date with what Cameron calls your "inner artist, a.k.a. your creative child." It's something you do alone, either in your own home, or away from it. Some samples Cameron shares in her book:
  • visit a great junk store
  • take a solo trip to the beach
  • watch an old movie
  • visit an aquarium or art gallery
  • go to an ethnic neighborhood to taste foreign sights and sounds
  • visit an unfamiliar church to hear gospel music
Another idea: do something you loved doing as a child that you haven't done in a long time, such as coloring a picture, riding a roller coaster, or going out for an ice cream sundae. The key is to HAVE FUN!

After finding Jusben's wonderful photography on Morguefile, I may make browsing more photographs there my next Artist Date. 

For additional suggestions, see these listed on Cameron's blog.

Happy (un)writing!


Kenda Turner said...

I've read The Artist's Way, but it was a long time ago. Thanks for refreshing my memory. I've been "replenishing my inner well" lately by writing haiku, something I'd never done before. I'm finding I'm enjoying the process and feeling more energized toward my lengthier projects :-)

Linda B said...

I'm late reading Carmela, but wanted to read about your 'drought' ideas. I have heard of the Artist's Way, but never read it or 'listened' to it. An artist's date is a great idea. The only idea I do is to dig out my old journals and read through them. Even if I don't find an idea exactly, sometimes the words just get me going again. Thanks for this!

Carmela Martino said...

Kenda, writing haiku sounds like a terrific way to replenish the well, as does reading through old journals, Linda. I'd like to try both of these. Thanks for sharing, ladies.