One of the women in my Second Thursday writer's group confessed that she had done little writing over a month of travelling and speaking for work. And then she mentioned that she had been on the East Coast and had spent time in the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the National Gallery in DC. I told her that was a terrific substitute for writing. In fact, immersion in other forms of creativity can be crucial for our right brains and our souls, two key components of creativity. There's something about the richness of exposure to genius that can revitalize our work, regardless of genre, medium, or subject.
Julia Cameron calls this going on an "artist's date." She recommends weekly solo trips to any place that fills the senses, any and all kinds of stimulation to fill the well of creativity. If you don't, she warns, you can run out of creative gas. This isn't about more subject matter, though you might discover some. It's more about a sense of bounty, of abundance, of generosity to bring to our work.
Being on retreat like I was last week is a kind of artist's date for me. First, the retreat center is gorgeous. The buildings are simple and harmonious, the natural beauty of the property is exceptional, the cultivated gardens had hundreds of lilies and poppies, hummingbirds, and thick foliage from the cool, rainy spring. It's a visual feast for the senses. Second, for a week, I get to talk with other writers at meals about their ideas, their challenges, their triumphs. We talk "shop" but it's really helpful and stimulating.
I've gone to yarn stores (touch and visual), lotion/soap stores for the scents and touch, concerts for the music, but by far the most satisfying for me are museum visits and a chance to look at big art, art in the flesh, as it were. Galleries of innovative work, fine photographs of natural wonders or portraits, pottery at a local market. All of it helps expose us to genius--that of others and our own.