When I was about six years old, my nine-year-old brother and I caught the bus on our own to the docks in my city. When we got there, we gazed up at the huge ships with their flags from other countries, and we watched the pallets dropping down onto the docks, and it was the most exciting thing I had ever known. My imagination was fired up. Even at that age I could feel it. Everything about that day was unlike our normal world. I suspect that my willingness to go off and play, to feed my imagination or curiosity or excitement, was born on that day.
Much more recently, I was talking with a friend about airports and how we both find them glorious, oddly creative spaces. Perfect for people-watching. So much so that we have each confessed to travelling to our local airports simply to sit and watch. It’s not that I’m looking for stories when I do that watching. I’ve never written anything set in an airport. There’s just something that feeds the writer in me, sitting in those bright spaces full of arrivals and departures. I’ve also loved to sit on trains or ferries, simply moving back and forth, watching and thinking. I live in Sydney, a harbour city, and sometimes I catch a ferry to Luna Park and take myself onto the Ferris wheel, all alone. It has never struck me as odd, my willingness to take myself off to play.
When I do this, I know that I am providing creative, playful space for myself. It helps me breathe. It helps me think, and it helps me make.
Julia Cameron, the writer of The Artist’s Way talked about the importance of taking your artist self out on a regular ‘artist date’.
She describes that as being a “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.”
I don’t do my airport or ferry or funpark trips weekly. I haven’t been to the docks for years. But I do something at least once a week which is playful, which creates space for me to simply be. Roller skating along my local boardwalk, wandering into music shops, making gardens … There are so many small creatively nurturing activities that help the writer in you breathe, help you remember to play, to be curious, to be engaged – all the things that we have been focusing on this past month.
Take yourself today on an ‘artist date’, with thanks to Julia Cameron. If you only have a little time today, perhaps plan an ‘artist date’ for later in the week and use fifteen minutes today to make yourself a list (love my lists!!) of date ideas Wander the streets near home or jump on a bus and travel further afield. Give yourself a creative adventure.
Here are some other ideas. Add your own.
- Take some cuttings of succulents and make a mandala garden
- Visit a second hand book store and wander for an hour or two
- Spend the morning sorting through your own books, picking some up at random and reading the opening pages….
- Take a slow walk along your nearest nature path – stop and take photos of small moments
- Decorate some paper and write a letter, with a pen, to an old friend.
- Take a sketchbook to a lake or river
- Visit a place you loved as a child. Or your first primary school
- Paint a rock
- Pick up a guitar and start plucking
- Get a hula hoop and have a go
- Lie on the grass under a tree and watch the light make patterns. Or watch the clouds.
- Find a random playlist and dance to it
- Go to a bellydance or Tai Chi or hip hop class
- Listen to some opera or music in another language and sing along
- Pick up some leaves and sticks and make patterns from them.
- Buy some clay and make little pots
- Wander around a local cemetery
- Go to an outdoor sculpture show
Making stories, making stuff up – this is something we do without thinking as kids. I used to delight in listening to my children and their little friends making up games, saying things like, ‘So I’m the pink one, but you live in a mountain. And you’re a fish.’ I remember it myself as a child – everything is possible, in your imagination. The point is this: being creative really is child’s play.
So give yourself some time to play.