An Artist’s Date on the Linear Trail

This week’s Artist’s Date – solo adventures meant to inspire creativity – was to an old haunt of mine: a linear park perfect for walking, jogging, cycling and rollerblading.

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I used to come here all the time. First, when I was dating my husband, we’d come here to rollerblade or bike. We did a lot of sporty outdoors stuff when we were wooing one another. Now, not so much.

Then, when I used to work at home a lot for my old job, I’d come here for a rollerblading workout after work or during my lunch break.

Over the years I’ve walked here with a pregnant friend, walked with her and her infant daughter in a stroller, walked my dog, and just walked.

The last time I was here was a couple of days after the US election when I was despondent about Donald Trump’s election victory. I wanted to go someplace where I could really think, alone. I am not a very political person. I became a political person that day.

The election encouraged a lot of soul-searching in me. I used to be a journalist, so while I am very well informed about the issues, I rarely have an opinion about them. I can see both sides, and I avoid getting caught up in day to day debates. I read widely, I always vote, but I don’t belong to a political party. Even though I have not been a journalist for years, I had always told myself that I should remain neutral in case I ever want to get into journalism again.

Who am I kidding?

I felt physically ill about Trump. I couldn’t sleep. I would think about him and my heart would race with anxiety. I had never had such a reaction in my life. I realized that I have been very fortunate in my life, selfish and privileged.  I realized I need to do more to share with others, to stand up for what I believe in, to educate myself about issues and speak my mind.

I have tried to do that. It’s hard and sometimes depressing. It’s easier just to avoid the newspaper and talk about fun things and laugh at the Trump impersonation on “Saturday Night Live.” But then reality sets in and I get angry and anxious again.

On my Artist’s Date yesterday I thought about this as I rollerbladed along. I have done several political things I have never done in my life. I marched in protests, wrote letters to congress members, donated money to political causes, signed petitions, and spoke out whenever I felt I should. I have alienated some relatives and a few friends, but I feel good overall. It’s time to pick sides.

I also thought yesterday about what to do next. I am going to give a speech about civil liberties, which have been under siege under Trump. I crafted out the speech in my mind, and next I need to write it and practice it. I’ll give the speech before an audience at my Toastmasters club later this month. It’s my way of informing people, giving back and letting people know where I stand.

The Artist’s Date has been an excellent boost to my thought processes and desires for action so far. Where should I go next week?

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Trying “The Artist’s Way”

A lot of people think that creative genius just … happens. You’re born a genius, like Madame Curie, outshining all the men in the lab, or you’re struck with a bolt of inspiration, like Georgia O’Keeffe in the southwestern desert, or you just see the world so differently that you can’t help but be creative, like shy Emily Dickinson in her little room in Massachusetts.

Nonsense.

Genius is hard work. Creativity requires dedication. Success requires a belief in yourself, as well as a willingness to tell naysayers to go to hell.

I’m learning this as I started reading “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron this week as a self-improvement project. I find myself frustrated by my inability to do what I really want to do and instead I keep going on with jobs that don’t satisfy me. I throw up roadblocks to success. I allow self-doubt to creep in. I just don’t put in the work.

The book has a spiritual component that does not appeal to me, but the advice so far has provoked thought and action. I started with two central activities:

  • Morning Pages – Every morning, first thing, write three pages of longhand stream-of-consciousness prose. This discipline is meant to remove cobwebs from your brain and get creative juices flowing.
  • Artist’s Date – Once a week, take a small, solo adventure somewhere for a couple of hours. This is meant to open your eyes to new experiences and unexpected connections.

Morning Pages has been interesting. Since I am comfortable with writing already, I’m not challenged to fill the three pages most mornings. After a few days of doing this, I noted how themes repeated themselves – my various aches and pains, my husband’s various actions and inactions, and the little things that set me off or please me, plus (as always) diet and food. I’m interested to see where this goes.

Yesterday I went on an Artist’s Date. For a mid-afternoon break from work, I walked from my office in Times Square down to Columbus Circle and back. I have done this a couple of times before, but I took a different route this time. I didn’t bring money or a cell phone or anything but my badge to get back into the office. I made note of anything that surprised me, such as:

  • Aggressive peddlers of bicycle rentals, including one guy who was using his job to harass women.
  • A coffee truck promoting the new “Twin Peaks” TV show. (“Damn good coffee.”)
  • A tall young man dressed all in black except for hot pink high-top sneakers.
  • A group of young people drawing some promotional thing on the sidewalk with chalk.
  • The startling green of Central Park in early spring.
  • An older man dressed in what looked like a cricket uniform.
  • So much “French” food – little bistros and quick-serve places with French names.

I didn’t immerse myself into this experience as much as I wanted to. It was my first try, OK? But I noted a few things that attracted my attention – bright colors, fattening food, and the somewhat puzzling activities of people young enough to be my children.

I am already thinking of where I want to go on next week’s “date.”