Play First, Work Later? Puhleese!

Julia Cameron has been one of my mentors for a very long time. I have worked through her 12 week program, outlined in The Artist’s Way, several times–alone and in pairs, triads and larger groups. It never gets old; there’s always something more to be discovered, uncovered, recovered about our relationships to creativity, to art, and to life.

the artist's way

Julia has a few tools that are the bedrock of her work. Morning Pages, which I describe at length here, a solitary weekly walk which she introduced later in her career as a ‘creativity expert,’ and the Artist’s Date. 

For Christmas, I received another of her books, The Weight of Water: The Art of Perseverance (I aspire to be as prolific as she is!) I was excited to receive it and wanted to dive right in, but I have too many other projects on the go to commit to the 12 week program right now. I did, however, recommit to those basic tools.

I had taken a loooong hiatus from the Morning Pages, but over the Christmas break I started doing them again. Only this time I’m doing them exactly as Julia suggests–rolling out of bed and directly to the page before my brain has time to wake up and ‘get logical.’ The stuff I write in that first half hour of consciousness is definitely top of mind. And unfiltered, real and, sometimes, raw.

In these past few weeks, I have found the Morning Pages to be more powerful, more insightful and more useful than when I used to wait until the morning routine was done and I had a quiet moment. I don’t understand why there is such a profound difference between immediate Morning Pages and three-hours-into-my-day Morning Pages, but I know that taking that first thirty minutes to drain my brain results in a more focused me and a more productive, creative life.

So that has been a nice reunion.

The Weekly Walk wasn’t much of a stretch either.

The Artist’s Date, however, is another story. During the 12 week course, I do it grudgingly, kicking and screaming some weeks, and I never continue it beyond the course because it is just so hard to do. Take myself on a date – alone – purely for enjoyment – no agenda – soaking up new sights and sounds. In short – play!

I know it’s about filling up the well with images that will keep my creativity fed, but still.

uck phooey

Last week, I finally wrote artist’s date in my planner for Saturday afternoon. It was the last item at the end of a very long list of household duties and chores and run-around errands. There might as well have been a little, red devil sitting on my shoulder hissing: If you’re going to go play this afternoon, you damn well better get some work done first.

That seems to be a fairly deeply embedded belief:

Work first. Play later . . . if there’s time.

My plan was to play fashionista at one of my favorite consignment stores, then take myself out to tea– but by the time I got everything on my list done and arrived on the doorstep of ReFind, it was 4:30 in the afternoon.

I was pretty sure (maybe even hoping?) they’d close at 5:00 but, lucky me (?), they were open ’til 6:00! I had an hour and a half of play time stretching out in front of me, my conscience salved by a clean house and full refrigerator.

And I did play. I browsed through every rack and tried on clothes I wouldn’t normally try . . . just for fun.

And it was fun!

I even came away with a few new-to-me pieces. The tea portion of my artist’s date fell by the wayside, but that was fine. I felt sufficiently filled up with colors and textures and a new persona or two. And it was way past tea-time anyway.

Besides, it meant I didn’t have to think up something to do this week. I’m actually looking forward to my Artist Tea Date–maybe I’ll take a notebook and eavesdrop on other people’s conversations. That’ll be fun!

And maybe I’ll only make myself do half the amount of work before I gift myself that tea-time adventure. And maybe–now I’m really dreaming–maybe . . . one day . . . I won’t need to prove myself deserving first in order to go out and play.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves here.


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2 Responses to Play First, Work Later? Puhleese!

  1. MJ says:

    Play before work is just naturally what a child wants to do – or in this house, a teenager. Clearly our parents / teachers etc were successful in stamping that out! Or we might do it now but feel the guilt. Uck phooey to guilt, I say.

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