I’ve been working through Julia Cameron’s excellent book, The Artist’s Way, with a group of friends over the past several weeks. It’s a book about honoring creativity, with 12 weeks of essays, exercises and activities designed to foster creative growth in any medium. I’m addressing my artistic life, but I’m also hoping to infuse my parenting life with more creativity and joy.
One of Cameron’s tenets of a full creative life is a weekly date doing something you love, or exploring something you think you’d love. The idea is to nurture yourself a little, and to play a lot. Creative blocks suddenly disappear, great projects materialize, and things come into focus, all because you’re taking time to play, to enjoy life. The caveat: this weekly playtime is solitary. It’s meant for you, and no one else. Cultivate personal fun, she says, and your creative life will flourish. Cultivate personal fun, I like to think, and your capacity to care for others increases.
Great new research is emerging about the value of both rest and play in the workplace, and I think it must be true regarding our work as parents, too. We certainly support our children in healthy play, but how about ourselves? It’s habit, I suspect, to take what’s left of the day for ourselves, instead of deliberating creating time for fun, especially solo fun. I know I’m much more likely to keep a commitment to a friend than to put time for myself on the calendar. And I’m probably overly attached to the idea of being busy. A to-do list feels purposeful and a very full to-do list can be a badge of honor, even among friends. But a solid commitment to fun — all by myself — feels somehow less responsible.
I’m encouraged by writer Katrina Kenison’s ideas about the importance of solitude, and especially love the idea that when we’re alone, we might learn things about ourselves and our lives that we wouldn’t otherwise discover. Kenison writes about her 3-year-old neighbor who’s talking to herself and her doll. “She’s enjoying her own good company — a knack, that somewhere along the line, so many of us lose.”
So, I’m dying to know. When’s the last time you really enjoyed your own good company? Have you seen the value of playing by yourself? What are your favorite ways to play?
P.S. — Thoughts on being alone always make me think of this video.