February 7, 2022

The hardest thing to add into your calendar can bring the most JOY: Discover the magic ingredient for boosting creativity AND productivity 

It's an interesting situation that when we consider productivity, there is this assumption somewhere in there that we have to be

DOING SOMETHING in order to be productive.  

Rest...even necessary rest can be really hard for people.  

But, what seems to be even harder than REST for most people is scheduled PLAY. 

Whenever people are encouraged to add scheduled PLAY into their lives, it automatically triggers this "wasted time" mentality for some reason. 

Play is seen as something kids do.  Not something adults do.

And certainly not on purpose. 

In The Artist's Way, Julia Cameron discusses her method for unlocking creative blocks.  She starts with Morning Pages - three pages of long-hand, stream of consciousness journaling where anything and everything can be put on the page.  There are no rules.

She asks that you get up 30 minutes earlier every day to start this habit and reports that most people can follow this direction pretty easily.  Get up early, work harder - that seems to resonate with a lot of people. 

But the second part, the weekly Artist Date, is the one that people struggle with.  The weekly Artist Date is a solo activity and can be anything that you find fun, interesting, or curious.  It is essentially a playdate, with and for yourself.  

You can use this time to visit a bookstore,  pet bunnies at a pet store, wander through a park, go exploring some area of town that you have not been.  It's literally anything that feels interesting to you. No agenda, no specific structure.   Cameron calls "refilling the well."   

And while most people will follow through on Morning Pages, a lot of people struggle with Artist Dates.    

This focus on white space though...

I believe that what feels like non-productive time is the magic ingredient to your productivity and creativity, 

FUN FACT:  The Artists Way was the program that got Elizabeth Gilbert on the path to write Eat, Pray, Love.   And you see how that worked out.

There's actually a third part, which is a weekly 20 minute walk, that was added later.  This three-part system is a really great way to find that elusive work-life balance. 

Intentionally finding time to process your thoughts in your journal, play and "refill the well" and also  move your body....this is a recipe that seems to work for a lot of people (including me!)

Examples of Artists Dates

1: Flowers, Art, Drawing

Over the past year, I have developed a hobby taking flower arranging classes at a local flower shop. It brings me so much joy.

This started from an Artists Date!  

During a cold Maryland winter (right after we moved here from Hawaii), I really felt like the world was so much less colorful.  So, I took an Artists Date to a local flower shop and just grabbed a few different flowers from their cooler and brought them home and threw them together in a vase.  

And, then I started doing that every week. Just grabbing grocery store flowers and putting them out around the house.  These little artists dates helped bring color to my world.  

And, then I decided I wanted to learn how to make them look better and I searched and found a class and the rest is history.   It's just a simple thing but it makes me happy. 

Flowers might not be your thing.. for you it might be visiting an antique store, or a craft shop, a gardening shop, or an art studio.  It could even be a bakery, a museum.  

You might spend time with your art supplies or make a magazine collage of pictures and words that feel inspiring. 

Think about something that you just love to look at or be around.  Go spend time there. 

2:  The library

Whenever I need something free to do for an Artists Date, I usually visit the library or a small bookstore.  I prefer the library because I can take home anything I want!

I like to walk around and just pick up books.  New releases, poetry books, photography books, children's books.  It's interesting to just see what the library has on display.  

I read a lot of books.  But I also look at a lot of books.  I like to see the colors and the designs and the illustrations. 

You may not find the library so appealing. Again, for you it might be a coin shop or a fabric store. The place doesn't matter.  It's the time spend browsing that is important.  

This isn't "research" and you are not required to learn anything or even bring home any books.   But the quiet space and the abundance of options makes it a great place for me to spend an hour. 

3:  Go somewhere outside and wander

You can almost always find an Artists Date idea outside!

I have taken Artist Dates to local parks and gone on their walking/running trails.  You can go to a botanical garden or just wander outside looking at the flowers, and birds and trees in your neighborhood. 

If you live near the water, then a stroll near the beach or river is a great place to start.  Along the way, you might take pictures of things that look interesting or gather sticks or rocks or shells. 

This can also be an urban adventure - go downtown in your city and just wander around.  The goal is to break up you routine, give your senses something to take in and enjoy. 

I have found that time expands when you put these Artists dates into your calendar.  You come back refreshed and energized.  The work that you were dreading now feels manageable.

~ Jen Taylor

I have found that time expands when you put these Artists Dates into your calendar.  You come back refreshed and energized.  The work that you were dreading now feels manageable.  

Instead of feeling angry and resentful towards people for not meeting your needs - you have met your own needs.  You have created joy for yourself through these playful encounters in the world. 

You have source material for your creative projects - you have images and stories and experiences with the world.   What would have taken you three hours to finish is now something that you knock out in one.  

That's been my experience anyway...I wonder what happens when you try it? 

If you found this helpful,  subscribe to my mailing list for tips and strategies to help make the unmanageable or seemingly impossible feel a little more do-able! My focus is on actionable ways to thrive emotionally, excel professionally, and energize your own creativity. 

About the Author

Jen Taylor, LCSW-C, RPT-S is an EMDR Approved Consultant and Certified Journal to the Self Instructor.  She is a therapist specializing in complex trauma, an international play therapy teacher and a published writer of multiple play therapy chapters.  Jen is the creator of the original 2017 Play Therapy Summit and many other innovative programs for mental health professionals.  Jen uses writing therapy, play therapy and expressive arts for her clients and for other mental health professionals so they can lead more joyful and meaningful lives.  Jen encourages people to try new things and create daily habits that allow for incremental progress towards previously unimaginable results.   Jen is a travel enthusiast, an avid reader, and a girl who lifts weights and runs for fun.  

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