So I didn’t go on an artist’s date this past week. I know, I know. I had one planned! I was going to make a giant pillow fort and watch a movie in it. Or make a batch of doughnuts on the stove to learn how to keep hot oil at a steady temperature. Or take out a book with absolutely no literary merit and fall into it for a couple of hours. Or go through multiple painting books to pick out wall colors for the house.
See? I had plans.
But of course I ended up taking extra hours at work. And I went to a life group on spiritual practices Tuesday night. And I had a work party to plan and prep for. And the apartment needed cleaning. (Full disclosure: I didn’t actually clean the apartment. I just thought about doing it.) Anyway, the point is that it’s not my fault I never got to it. It’s the universe‘s fault.
No matter whose fault (and the blame game is ridiculously easy to get into and easier still to lose), I still feel guilty about it. I feel like I should have made time, even if I couldn’t have anticipated my boss getting sick or whatever. I also feel a little disappointed. I mean, all those dates sound awesome. My life has a lot of awesome in it, but not so much that it couldn’t use a little more.
I find that whenever I’m feeling guilty and disappointed it helps to look back and count up what I have done rather than what I haven’t. For example, on weeks I feel I’ve accomplished nothing I compile a list of all the work I’ve done (from the most trivial–making the bed–to the impressive–edited four thousand words) in order to feel more productive. In the past this has helped me feel better both about my week and about myself. It’s easy to allow my guilt and disappointment to make me feel lazy and sometimes even worthless. But with missing an artist’s date things are a little different. I can be fairly indiscriminate when selecting activities under the title of “productive”. Picking out “creative” activities requires me to be a little more discerning.
Or is it? (Dun dun dun!) Part of what I’m learning from The Artist’s Way is that creativity is an inherent quality of living. One of my middle school teachers once told me that she hadn’t believed herself to be creative at all until someone pointed out how innovative she was in packing lunch for her children: she pasted coloring pages onto each paper bag and included stickers and crayons in among the sandwiches and juice boxes for lunchtime fun. It took someone else to point it out for her to realize that her idea was not only ingenious but also hugely creative. Remembering her, I decided to look back on my week from an outsider’s perspective. What had I done that might be seen as creative by someone else?
I thought through all the new things I tried this week: making a pork roast in the slow cooker, starting a class (Intro to Computer Science), attempting gravy for the first time, scriptural meditation. I thought about how I picked out my clothes and the care I put into my outfits (some days, admittedly). How I constructed ice cream sundaes by carefully arranging the m&ms for an optimum chocolate-to-vanilla ratio. The work that went into designing flyers for the children’s writing workshop I’ll be teaching in March. The story ideas I came up with during my morning pages.
None of these things make up for missing my artist’s date. I’m still going to put more effort into making time for one next week. Hopefully I’ll have something awesome to take pictures of and report to y’all. But I do believe there is something valuable in thinking about all the creativity we practice on a daily basis. Taking some time to acknowledge that creativity isn’t always what we do but rather who we are can help us to take a step back, take a deep breath and enjoy our lives a little more.
At the very least it can make things a little more fun.