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Courting the Muse: The Artist's Date

Prayer to the Muse, from my Art Journal

If you're a creative, you've probably been asked (probably more than once):

Where do you get your ideas?

Maybe you can answer this concisely. I can't. My ideas come from everywhere. They come from the books I read, the music I listen to, the funny mushrooms I saw in the supermarket, the conversation at the bus stop that I was eavesdropping on... Anything can be my creative fodder.

But maybe you're working on a specific project, and find yourself stuck. Maybe the Muse has wandered off and gotten lost. Or maybe you're just in a creative funk and your ideas all seem to be dollar-store knockoffs. There are lots of ways we can get re-inspired, and one tried-and-true practice for the care and keeping of our creative selves, is the Artist's Date.

If you're a self-help junkie like me, you may already be aware of the Artist's Date. It's when you take your Creative Muse out on the town, with the conscious intention of seeing new things, trying new things, and gleaning inspiration from the world. It's a practice that's always helped me feel like I'm taking care of my creative wellness. It also feels similar to the way business-y people must feel when they book a trip to a beach resort for a conference, and write it off as a "business expense." Very professional... with just a bit of exciting deviance.

So, where do you take your Muse when you want to impress her? Well, art museums and galleries are an obvious choice. A good choice. Seeing the work of other artists can get your wheels turning. Can inspire you to try a new technique, or consider a new subject. It can challenge us to try something new and different. And that's cool.

Personally, my Muse likes this date. Most of the time. But sometimes, she gets a little bored of the same-old same-old. She gets particularly impatient with this date, if a project I'm working on is getting a little too serious. And maybe art museums and galleries just don't do it for you. Maybe you don't have any around where you live. Totally fine. There are other ways to wine and dine the Muse.

There are, in fact, infinite ways to do the Artist's Date, and I feel funny making recommendations, because it's really all about finding activities that inspire you and get you energized... But I'm gonna do it anyway, because examples are helpful.

Also because it's nice to have some ideas for fun, cheap dates that you can do matter where you live.

Date Idea #1: Go to your Public Library.

So, I know what you're thinking. If you took anyone else on a date to the library, you probably wouldn't get a second date. But the Muse loves the library. Know why? Because libraries are magic.

You need ideas? Libraries are chock-full of ideas! They're literally repositories for ideas. And you can rifle through them... for free. You can go straight to the art books, sure, but there are many sections to explore. Walk through the shelves and pick out titles that sound interesting (or ridiculous). Judge those books by their covers.

Maybe that Big Book of Bugs is calling your name. Maybe it's the cookbooks. Let curiosity guide you. Head to the children's section and flip through the picture books (I love this one). Folk tales and Mythology. Plumbing and Carpentry. Gardening and Coin Collecting and Sports. And that's just the nonfiction section. Maybe your library has back issues of Cat Fancy. Maybe they've got every issue of She-Hulk ever made. Maybe they've got historical texts and microfilm of old newspapers you can look at.

Go wild! But be quiet, of course.

Date Idea #2: Get Outside

Maybe you already like to spend time outside, but when it comes to the Artists's Date, we want to spend that time outdoors on the hunt for inspiration. Go to a public park and pay attention to all the different shapes of leaves there are. Sit yourself in the grass and really stop to smell those flowers. What are the smells like?

Maybe there's a forest you can visit. Hug those trees, investigate that moss. Be still and listen for the different birds and other wildlife Do you have a body of water to visit? A beach to comb? Consider how alive this place is. Take off your shoes and feel the dirt with your toes.

Consider the history of this place. Do you know who (or what) lived here before you? What do you think it will be like in 50 years?

Date Idea #3: Window-Shop

Personally, I don't like shopping. It stresses me out. I also have a lot of ethical objections in the land of retail. But window-shopping is something I can enjoy- and something that can light that creative fire when I need it.

Art supply stores can be a fun way to discover new materials to try (or to lust after), but there are definitely other places to get your inspiration.

I like to go to thrift stores, vintage shops, flea markets- places that require you to do some rummaging. These are places that have items with a history. Who owned it? What were they like? What might have possessed them to wear a fushia blazer with sparkles on the shoulder pads? Take in the colors, the textures, the materials. Try something on that you would never wear in real life. Add a great hat.

Hobby shops can be a goldmine. I don't know a lot about model trains, but I do know there are entire aisles dedicated to miniature people and animals. Comic book stores and game shops always show me things I've never seen before. Record stores are made for browsing and always offer lots of neat album cover art. Does your neighborhood have an entire store dedicated to yarn? Soap? Medical supplies? Go check it out.

Maybe you're an adrenaline seeker. Have you ever walked onto an auto lot and pretended to be looking for a new car? Browsed a jewelry store pretending to look for something special? Furnished your imaginary mansion whilst wandering the furniture store? It's always a thrill to test out/try on stuff you can't afford. Just don't do anything illegal.

These are just a few ideas. The Artist's Date can be anything. Go rollerskating. People-watch at the coffee shop. Bake a birthday cake. The point is that you approach an activity with fresh eyes, and an intention of letting the experience guide you to new ideas.

Your Muse is sure to be impressed.

Do you have a go-to Artist's Date?

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