It happens to the best of us. One morning you wake up and it seems like everything you try to write takes twice as long, no fresh ideas trickle into your less-than-fertile brain, and the work you usually take pleasure from feels like a ball and chain around your ankle. Though it could simply be a bad case of the winter doldrums, more than likely these symptoms indicate that it’s time to schedule an artist’s date or two to replenish your creative soul.
By the end of February, it was clear that I was at the end of my creative rope. My solution? A few days in Cleveland! Before you fall out of your seat laughing, what I’m trying to get at is that filling the well doesn’t need to involve planning a major trip abroad or spending an exorbitant amount of money. You can often find inexpensive ways to reenergize your creativity much closer to home without breaking the bank. So, I hopped into my car and headed west to visit my son.
Three things I did:
If/Then at Playhouse Square-expensive
Written by the Pulitzer Prize and Tony-award winning creators of Next to Normal (Brian Yorkey and Tom Kitt) If/Then is a musical described as being set at the intersection “where choice and chance collide”. The playwrights do a phenomenal job of showing the parallel lives the actors could lead, based on the decisions they make every day related to living life with a closed heart or an open one, taking chances or sticking to the safe and predictable route. The birthday party is an especially well-done scene and the song “You Learn to Live Without” still tugs at my heartstrings a week later.
There wasn’t a weak link in the play; both the story and the songs were surprising, fresh, funny, and tragic, everything a memorable play should be. I left the theatre feeling like life has unlimited possibilities and the dream that someday I would be able to write something even half that good.
The student union at Case Western-free
My son had classes so I took my adult coloring book to the union and settled down to color, people-watch, and eavesdrop to my heart’s content. It was an enjoyable way to relax and spend a few hours just letting various thoughts drift through my head. By the time he showed up to collect me I had come up with a few ideas and titles for short stories as well as a few things to do to improve my writing.
Dinner at Happy Dog with college students-cheap
In case you weren’t aware, hot dogs and tater tots are the latest hipster trend! Though this neighborhood corner bar/restaurant had a slightly seedy appearance and clientele, the beer list was good and the food even better.
Each customer gets a pencil and an order sheet. There are three initial choices you need to make-draft or bottle, beef or veggie, and tots or fries. But then it gets complicated. The seemingly endless topping list for the quarter-pound hot dogs on Orlando buns includes unusual items like Spaghetti-O’s and Fruit Loops (none of us were that adventurous!), a truly amazing array of pickled vegetables, globally flavored novelty sauces and ketchups, and the ever-present fried egg. Everything was unbelievably delicious, the service was quick and efficient, and the bill for five of us came to $55.
But it was conversing with college students that provided the final drops of creativity needed to bring my wellspring back to the top where it belongs. I love talking to people in their early twenties because they still make time to think about things besides housework, jobs, money, and kids. They can talk endlessly about current events, various philosophies, ideas, concepts, visions, and ethics. We discussed domestic and international politics, women’s rights, different types of writing, movies and television shows, and ethical dilemmas. For three hours! Haven’t done that in quite a while and it was refreshing and invigorating. Filling your creative well may seem frivolous and not part of your “real work”. But it’s essential if you want to keep generating good work.
What’s your favorite artist’s date?