Yesterday I had a hot date with someone I haven’t seen in a while. She’s beautiful and full of joy, but I’ve spent most of my life avoiding her. You see, as wonderful as she is, I grapple with mixed feelings about her. She’s reckless, embarrassing, and loud. She LOVES to be the center of attention and I can never predict what she’s going to do or say.

She is my inner artist.

On our date yesterday, we put on music, got on the floor, and made a big old mess together!

We ripped through magazines and tore out pictures and words. We read through piles of old journals and laughed at past versions of myself. We were especially amused by the twelve-year-old girl who practiced her “Suzanne Savage” signature and named the three children she’d have with Fred. Apparently he never got the memo. Clearly his loss.

Just look at the mess she and I made on our artist date!

Artist Date: Making a Mess

Together, we reconnected the threads that led me to become the person I am today. We cried as we sifted through days of teenage depression and felt deep gratitude to the teachers and counselors who helped me through. (Wherever you are, thank you Mr. Arbogast!) We smiled as we rediscovered the writing and extremely bad poetry that served as my guidepost and escape in those hard times. We read old stories, found lost ideas, and imagined new ones.

We started a character board for my next novel:

Artist Date: Making a Character Board

And one for the next version of me:

Artist Date: Next Version of Me

What’s an Artist Date?

Artist dates are one of the primary tools Julia Cameron recommends in her book, The Artist’s Way. Last Tuesday, I started a “creative cluster” with a group called Artists for Joy. Together, we’ll make our way through the 12-week program, which is designed to free your inner artist and help you discover a spiritual path to higher creativity.

I’ve read The Artist’s Way before and worked through sections of it. In fact, the book’s exercises and affirmations are what helped me break through some deep creative blocks and finally publish my debut novel last year. I’ve never made it through the entire program, though. I usually abandon it midway for the same mysterious reasons I stop working out as soon as I start feeling great. Now, I can’t wait to finish the journey with a group who will (a) help hold me accountable and (b) let me share the experience as part of a community. Both these things are invaluable to my creative process.

The artist dates have always been one of my biggest struggles. The rules are simple enough: once a week, block out a couple hours to do whatever your artist tells you to, and do it ALONE. It seems so simple, yet I’ve always avoided them like the plague. (“Cliche!” my inner critic hollers.)

I think it’s because of my ambivalence toward my inner artist. You won’t believe the silly things she tells me to do! She is wild, weird, messy, unexpected, and downright embarrassing. She loves to sing and dance, even though her voice is horrible and her moves are decidedly not like Jagger. She pairs an orange jacket with a turquoise shirt. She loves bright colors and patterns, and she gets so mad at me every time I buy ANOTHER black shirt. (I try to explain to her that black is slimming, classic, and elegant, but she just doesn’t understand the importance of any of those things.)

For any of you who are single and spent Valentine’s Day feeling lonely, or anyone who is bored with life and looking to spice things up: try a date with your inner artist. Don’t tell my husband, but rolling around with her on the floor was the most fun I’ve had in weeks. And best of all, I couldn’t wait for the “morning after” to see what else we’ll cook up together.

What would you do on your artist date?