The creative-date-with-self (create date for short) is an important creative flow practice. It is ideally done weekly and must be done alone.
The create date is an expedition to explore something you find compelling or thrilling or fun. An expedition, by yourself, to do something that enchants or excites you.
It can be something you think of as a bit scary, like skydiving or bungee jumping, or a bit silly or childish, like going to a kid’s movie or doing some finger painting.
It doesn’t have to be something that is normally considered creative. It could be playing with a dog (not your own) for two hours or spending the afternoon naked. (See ideas below).
The Successful Create Date
A successful create-date is spent doing something that
1) you’d really like to do
2) you haven’t done before or for a long time and
3) feels like play, not work.
It may be a trip to a children’s bookstore or a luxury fabric shop; to a warehouse party or a walk by the canal; to a museum or art exhibition; a field or a beach.
Be careful of anything that smacks of “high art” or duty. This shouldn’t be something improving, the opposite.
“Every child is an artist,” said Picasso. “The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.”
Create-dates go a long way to solving that problem. For some of us, it can help to think of our grown-up self taking our childish self on an outing.
“I found this tool the hardest of all,” said Megan, a Creativist Club member, reporting back recently.
“Harder than F-R-E-E-Writing for 20 minutes every day?” I asked.
“Yes. Harder than exercising.”
Megan is not alone. Why is this? Why should so many of us find taking timeout with ourselves, to do something enjoyable, so challenging?
Shouldn’t it be the easiest thing in the world?
At some level, we are all scared of being alone with ourselves.
Create Date: The Joy of Solitude
In the Philippine Journal of Psychology, Eric Julian Manalastas who teaches the psychological benefits of solitude at the University of the Philippines, reports on his experiments on what he calls The Date with the Self: “I presented sample activities as suggestions, including going to a cinema, eating at a restaurant, visiting a park or museum, enjoying a walk in nature, etc., with the self as their date. Students were instructed not to think that they were not going on this date alone; rather, they would be going with a companion who is very special, i.e., themselves.
“In addition to this fundamental cognitive frame, I posed a number of specific behavioral guidelines that would apply to any other type of date, like discouraging mobile phone use and book reading.”
Manalastas found that the act of dating the self was undeniably positive, providing “context for self-renewal and a tool for the pursuit of creativity and insight, as one basks in the freedom and serenity it can offer. The capacity to handle and enjoy solitude is linked to psychological adjustment, including less depression, a greater sense of personal agency, and higher life satisfaction. This appreciation of time spent alone can be developed using an active learning exercise such as the date with the self.”
- Prepare for your create-date with as much attention as if you were going out with another person you wanted to have a good time with.
- Announce to yourself, well in advance, that you are going on a date and so unavailable for anyone else. Put the date in your diary, just as you would any other appointment.
- Watch and see if resistance rises and if it does, see it for what it is, e.g create-dates can be easily derailed by an unexpected phone call, or somebody’s impromptu visit, or an important errand or “must-do” chore. Drop them all; come back to them. But first go on your create date.
As create dates become a weekly habit, the resistance fades, and you begin to really enjoy them but in the most stressful times, resistance will arise again.
After The Create-Date
After your create-date, you may feel replenished… or you may feel nothing at all. At a deeper level, your inner well of images and inspiration has been fed, but it may take some time before this surfaces as a feeling.
Like all creative flow practices, the create-date fosters presence and awareness. It helps us notice synchronicity and serendipity throughout the week. Through this simple act of spending a little time with self, we find that somehow, mysteriously, we’re more immersed in the flow of creativity.
We spontaneously find ourselves more conscious, more connected, more in flow.
Some Create-Date Suggestions
- Home Turf
Take an hour’s walk around your area but take a different route to the one you normally follow. If you never gone that way before, so much the better. As you walk around, choose the less familiar route at every turn. Go to a new coffee-shop and write or draw what you saw. What do you learn about the place you thought you knew?
- Unusual Shop
Creativity guru Julia Cameron recommends a similar practice, what she calls an Artist’s Date, for the blocked artists and writers she works with. “My most recent date entailed a visit to a store called “Feathered Friends”, she says. “I met with finches, cockatiels, lovebirds and parrots of all sizes, colors and descriptions. I found myself enchanted, and, long after I left the store, birdsong echoed through my consciousness.”
Here she gives 101 suggestions for Create-Dates, and here are my 25 favorites from her list.
- See an Oscar-nominated movie or a foreign film… alone.
- Visit a “creative” shop: an art supply store, a fabric shop, a music store.
- Grab a stack of magazines, and clip whatever looks interesting or cool.
- Plant something. Start your own herb garden. Butterfly garden. Plant a tomato or some bulbs. Try a “guerilla garden,” and scatter seeds randomly somewhere to see what grows.
- Take a walk on a nature trail. Take your camera.
- Try a new cuisine, recipe, restaurant, fruit, vegetable, etc.
- Spend a day naked.
- Plan a road trip.
- Write a letter to the person you plan to be in ten years.
- Write a letter to your parents. Tell them what you are grateful to them for. (Send it?)
- Go to the library and find a book on a topic that you know very little about but that looks very fascinating to you. Check it out. Read it.
- Mix a CD of songs that you’ve never heard before, that you simply like the titles of.
- Have a complete day of silence.
- Have a technology-free day.
- Go to a u-pick farm.
- Make a “bucket list”.
- Get a hammock. Lie in it often.
- Go for a bike ride.
- Blare your favorite music while baking something delicious.
- Fly a kite.
- Read a children’s book.
- Take yourself on a picnic to the park. (Dogs can go too.)
- Go to a free museum.
- Finger paint.
- Play at a park. Swing. Slide. Hang from monkey bars.
F-R-E-E-Write Possible Create Dates
One of the best ways to find new possibilities for create dates is to f-r-e-e-write about it. Ask yourself:
- If money and time were no object, where would I most like to go?
- What environment do I most want to hang out in?
- What are most like to do?
- What little longings are down there that I haven’t satisfied?
F-R-E-E-Write your answers and you’ll have plenty of suggestions for future Create Dates.
You can Download a Log for your Create-Dates here
Create Date FAQ
There is nothing I love to do more than gardening. Can another session in the garden serve as a Create Date?
No. It must be something new, not your usual hobby but something you don’t normally do.
Can I go on a course I’ve wanted to do for ages?
You should go on your course, yes, but not as your create date.
Courses inevitably mean other people, the facilitator, the other students but create dates have to be taken alone and are one-off activities. A core part of the exercise is doing something different next week.
What About Reading?
Would you read a book on a date with another person? When Carl Jung gave this assignment to an overworked minister, he used the time to listen to music and to read. “But you didn’t understand,” Jung is said to have said, when the minister reported back. “I didn’t want you with Herman Hesse or Thomas Mann or even Mozart or Chopin. I wanted you alone with yourself.”