Valentine’s Day. You either love it or hate it. Oh, the hoopla. Oh, the expectation. Whether you are happily coupled, happily single, or somewhere in between, this holiday just seems to shine a glaring pink light into our vulnerable house of romance (or lack of). As a result, it can be tempting to hold your breath until it’s all over and/or eat too much sale chocolate. Yuck.
But regardless of your relationship status or affinity to candy, there is one relationship that could probably use some TLC this February: Your creative relationship.
It’s been 20 years since I first read Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way and incorporated her idea of the “artist date” into my life. Cameron describes this as a date you make with your creative self, something purely inspirational, purely joyful. She argues that in order to nurture your creativity you have to give time and attention to that part of you that does the creating—namely your little artist child, who just wants to play.
This February I propose to take it a step further: We all know that when you’re writing regularly, in the zone, your work can also feel like a romantic partner, a confidant, a lover and a best friend. And like a lover, it also wants time alone with you to do what all people in love do: gaze starry-eyed at each other, tell stories, laugh too loud, listen oh so intently, and of course get back in bed and do some creating (wink). This creative relationship is so akin to a new romance that when I’m deep into a project I will often joke that I have a new boyfriend and his name is Man U. Script.
So this February, how about you turn up the heat on your artistic relationship and have a romantic encounter with your work?
How to Date Your Writing Work
The Artist Date.
Remember: no boring adult stuff. For me this looks like a date to the museum, always with notebook in hand. Or a solo adventure to a new library, maybe a walk in a new direction with my camera taking artsy pictures, a visit to a new bookstore, antique or thrift store, farmer’s market without a shopping list or the symphony (alone of course). I love going to movies by myself, dinner by myself with my notebook. Sure, quarantine has limited some of these activities, but after a year of quarantine, we have certainly learned how to get creative. So get creative. So what would delight your little artist? Exploring a new neighborhood? Watching the sunrise with some good music?
Who doesn’t love a thoughtful gift? Again, nothing practical here—instead ask: What would be truly inspiring? A new frivolous notebook? (I love to splurge on the ones with pop stars or glitter or 80’s album covers.) A fancy pen? Purple ink? A card you send through the mail to yourself? A big bouquet of flowers right on your desk while you daydream? Would your muse leave you a red velvet cupcake on top of your computer? They might. They just might.
Manuscript Encounter Weekend.
Every couple in love longs for more alone time. A long weekend with the door locked. A few times a year I splurge on a night or a weekend in a hotel (I share my DIY retreat formula here), filling my day with nothing but writing, napping, eating and taking walks. But you can do this at home if you plan for it right. Close the internet, turn off the phone, and go deep with your work for a full 24, 36, even 48 hours. Block off the biggest chunk of time you can manage and protect it with the fortitude of steel.
Put a Ring on It.
This is the gift your work has truly been waiting for. So make the commitment. In sickness and health. Then stick to it.
The romantic possibilities are endless, and you know yourself best, so this February choose whatever would make your muse blush and swoon and feel properly spoiled. You muse is also your most tender lover, your work is your most thrilling confidant. So celebrate! No relationship will ever be hotter, more adventurous, and ultimately more fulfilling than the one you have with your own creative self.
If you love to write and have a story you want to tell, the only thing that can stand between you and the success you’re seeking isn’t craft, or a good agent, or enough Facebook friends and Twitter followers, but fear. Fear that you aren’t good enough, or fear the market is too crowded, or fear no one wants to hear from you. Fortunately, you can’t write while being in the flow and be afraid simultaneously. The question is whether you will write fearlessly.