I had a wonderful conversation last year with my friend Laila here in San Francisco. We met back in 2012 when I first moved to New York City. At the time, we were both working in the photography industry. Funny enough, we both decided that our personalities were better suited for San Francisco, so here we are. Plus, our families are here.
She showed me her super cool studio in the Outer Mission, we had a quick portrait shoot with her film camera, then proceeded to enjoy some lattes at a local cafe. She mentioned something really cool that day. She said to date yourself. No, not in terms of being single in the love department, but to treat yourself as an artist.
How does this work?
Simple. You choose a day. Any day of the week, and you go out and do whatever creative things you want to do. This could be working on that one project you’ve been thinking about for the longest time but never started, going to the museum, or simply spending an entire day at your local bookstore. Point being, you intentionally free yourself of any responsibilities for the day and authorize yourself to do the things that you enjoy and inspire you.
Some people might view this as a waste of time.“Why are you being so leisurely?” They might ask. You need to work. But those people simply do not have an understanding of how creativity works. Writer James Taylor breaks creativity down into five essential steps, and the first step? Preparation, but I’ll call it INSPIRATION. And inspiration comes from exposing yourself to things you otherwise would never experience. That includes watching movies, traveling, going to parts of the city you normally wouldn’t go to, or simply taking a different route home. It might not seem like “work” but it is. When you date yourself, you are absorbing as much information as possible. Inspiration is a crucial part to our creativity. It is the root and the soil from which all great ideas grow, and it is something that you must not neglect.
The mixture of the different experiences you encounter when you date yourself will then allow you to come up with truly original art. Many of my ideas for writing, video, photography, dance, and even ways of speaking come from the unique concoction of experiences that I’ve had in my life. In this way, we are all chefs, we are all mixologists, and we are all inventors, if only we first allow ourselves to be.
So date yourself. Take yourself out for a treat. It can be as simple as visiting the local museum, or something as grand as doing a cross-country road trip in your Volkswagen Westfalia (Totally something to do on my checklist. I will do it someday!). Who knows what you will find, and who knows how this will benefit you in the long run. But one thing’s for sure, sitting on your butt and staying put ain’t gonna get you anywhere. So take yourself out on a date! You’ve got nothing to lose, and only fun to be had. Take a day off, and take care of you!
Thank you, Laila, for the insightful idea. Now, go take yourself out on a date!
by Jason Lam