Friday, February 16, 2007

Do You Play?

I have talked about Julia Cameron's book The Artist Way before. This book was so helpful to me in finding my way towards expressing myself creatively, that I guess it has become something of a sacred book to me. One of the tools she recommends having in your artist tool box is something she calls Artist Dates.

Artist Dates to me, are just play dates. Times when you go to the park just to take in the beauty of nature, perhaps with camera in hand. Visit a museum, explore the possibilities of a trip to the Dollar Store with $10 to spend. Go to a movie by yourself so that you can really take it in without distraction. Play around with some other media with no other intention but playing.

Watch a group of preschoolers approach art supplies and there is no hesitation. No one is asking, "What should I do?" The biggest question is probably what color they want to use. Then maybe they are thinking about what they will draw, build, mold, paint or whatever. But only after they are well immersed into the media. There is no over thinking.

Put the same supplies out in front of a group of adults and the reaction is very different. There is probably a lot less abandon. And there is a great deal of hesitation, and probably discussion. And most of that discussion will go along the lines of how inadequate they are at drawing, or painting, or sculpting, or whatever. Before they have begun interacting with the medium, they are already judging the outcome. Explaining their inadequacies to all who are present.

Sometimes that fearlessness of the preschooler is what we need more of. The advantage to working in some other media, or perhaps in a technique that is outside of what you might normally do, is that you can reconnect with that sense of playful exploration. That is when we allow our creative voice to emerge. Get a coloring book and a box of crayons if that is what it takes to remember how to have fun with your art. Or maybe some Playdoh. The smell alone is likely to bring back feeling of happiness buried deep down in your creative soul. Glue something. Get out the glitter or pipe cleaners. Build a snow creature. Give yourself permission to just have some fun.

Not everything has to have a purpose or be justified to anyone else. I know trying to explain to the more straight-laced folks in your life that you spent your day coloring may not be something you want to do. But maybe they need a little coloring time, too.

So why is this so important? Because until we can shut that critical voice up, or at least turn down the volume, it is impossible to find your voice. Until you let yourself explore without boundaries or too many rules, you will forever being limiting your own potential. And the world needs and wants you to live up to your most amazing self.

Plan a play date. And make sure you do not go months in between these times of play. They will recharge your creative batteries. If you wait until you are depleted, it will take longer to get back in touch with yourself again. Just like a professional athlete would not skip their training, if you take your art seriously, you need to take care of your creative soul.

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