Have you ever been on an artist date? If you haven't, consider taking advantage of the upcoming weekend to try it out. What is an artist date, you ask? Julia Cameron of The Artist's Way describes it as:
... 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. When choosing an Artist Date, it is good to ask yourself, “what sounds fun?” — and then allow yourself to try it.
I have been taking myself on artist dates for almost seven years, although I'm not very consistent about it. Cameron recommends one artist date per week, and mine are less frequent. Still, in keeping with letting go of perfectionism in 2016, I'll be grateful for the ones I have had.
Artist dates can be cheap or even free and might be taking a walk at the beach, taking advantage of a free day at a local art museum, browsing in the craft store and daydreaming about the projects you would like to make, or attending a concert in the park. There's no right or wrong way to court yourself creatively, with the exception of two rules Cameron makes clear: the artist date MUST be done solo and it is designed to give yourself an opportunity to do something that sounds fun, as opposed to something you think you "should" do. Be wary of this "should do" attitude--as an actor, there are plenty of times I think I should take myself on a date to the theatre, but if I'm honest, I'd rather take myself to a museum or park instead. Cross genres. Be curious. Be honest. No one's keeping track but you!
This Tuesday, I took myself on a date to a poetry reading hosted by the Cambridge Public Library and Harvard Book Store that featured the wonderful Stephen Burt and actress and poet Amber Tamblyn . You may know her name from her stint as a teenager on General Hospital (or was I the only one watching soaps as a teenager?), the CBS Emmy nominated Joan of Arcadia, or the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series. What you may not know is that she has been writing poetry for much of her life, and her new collection of poetry Dark Sparkler is breathtaking.
Tamblyn spent five years writing the poems, which are based on the lives of actresses who died before age 40. Many are not names you will recognize, and this fact also plays a large role in the message of the collection--the impulse we have to matter to people, to be remembered, to live on after we are gone. And yet, many of the actresses in the book are not familiar to us, and in fact, die far before their time, some in the most brutal of ways--suicide, murder, drug overdoses. Which begs another question: what price are we willing to pay for fame and notoriety?
The collection is illustrated by the likes of David Lynch, Russ Tamblyn (the poet's father), and Marilyn Manson. There's a fascinating epilogue that provides deeper insights into Tamblyn's own struggle to figure out who she is among Hollywood standards, misogyny, and self-doubt. Reading this section and listening to a recent interview with her on Marc Maron's WTF podcast felt like having coffee with a friend about life's big questions that plague and puzzle us all, rich and famous or not.
It was a fabulous choice for an artist's date. I got to hear her read poetry aloud from the book, and realized how soothing being read to is. My mom read aloud to me all the time as a child, and I found myself slipping into this warm, fuzzy, peaceful place in my seat at the library being read to once again. Perhaps I need to check out audiobooks?
When I got in line to get my book signed, I thanked Amber Tamblyn and let her know that the themes of fame, self-doubt, and creativity really hit a nerve with me as an actress. I've always been lured into thinking that if I was famous and successful, I'd find peace. It feels ridiculous to even type that, but I'm someone who struggled as a kid and young person with being comfortable with who I am, in my own skin, and so from an early age, I dreamed about being famous, which in my mind meant that you would never feel insignificant or ugly or useless ever again. I used to believe I would do anything to reach these "greener pastures", which is a scary thing to realize. I still fee lured by this mirage of security and acceptance. I'm still working on making my own rules. So often it feels like swimming against a powerful current, but I am making progress on being at peace with who I am and what I am working towards.
Despite all these struggles and doubts, I told her"I'm working on finding peace and joy in my every day life." Amber's response to all these thoughts that tumbled out of my mouth aloud was simple and true. "It's hard", she said. "But that's what it's all about, right?"
All that from an artist date, you say? Yes. So what are you waiting for? Court yourself sometime soon, and see what musings, thoughts, or questions arise for you.
Anyone planning an artist date this weekend? As always, feel free to share any thoughts in the comments!