I first heard of going on a writer’s date from an early creative writing teacher. I experienced it again from attempting to work my way through Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. I floundered on ‘The Way’ when I was expected to partake in a reading fast for a week – that was a step too far. But I found the artist’s date one of the exercises that did work for me. When I was on a date new ideas sparked. On one particular artist’s date I solved a major issues in my debut novel, The Incomers, which led to the popular Pairty Line.
So what is an artist’s date? The date is a tool for creatives to recharge. After many bouts of writing words stick, ideas dull and a block can arise. It becomes necessary to unblock blocks, to kick start a stall and rid yourself of all the cliques you want to avoid but can’t.
Normally the date is taken alone and it is designed to take yourself away from the mundane, try something different, dare, play, and experiment or just spend some time in your own head. The dates I have taken in the past are many. I once sat a No 6 bus from Clydebank to East Kilbride, a journey that takes an hour by car but two hours by bus through some varied districts of Glasgow. Feeding ducks at a nearby pond paled in comparison but was still enjoyable as were visits to museums, and of course every writers’ favourite pastime, writing in a café. After the death of my mother I couldn’t write, but a period of lonely walks warmed my writing muscles enough for small short stories to appear.
When I was given 52 Dates for Writers, by Claire Wingfield I was sceptical. I have 20 years of writing experience and three novels under my belt since I ventured out on my first dates. What could this book give me now? I decided to give it a go.
Clare Wingfield is an experienced editor and literary consultant. She takes the artist’s date a step further than Julia Cameron did by targeting each date to a specific part of your novel writing (although these can also be applied to short stories and non fiction).
At the beginning of the book there is a list of things to focus on; characterisation, plot, setting, style, writing business with a key to the dates which will help with each point. Also included in each date is a specific writing exercise.
I soon discovered that a book like this cannot be reviewed in one setting so I decided to test some of the dates and apply them to my writing. At the time of my dates I was writing book three of my Sun Song Trilogy, Star of Hope. There are some new characters in this book, most I know well. But the plot? Oh how I floundered in the early stages. This week I am now up the final edits and am surprised to find that two major parts in the novel originate directly from some dates I chose from 52 Dates for Writers. I won’t list the novel sections here in case they could become spoilers.
I now realise my earlier reservations were unfounded, what the exercise has taught me is that any aid I can find to help the writing process I will take. This clever little manual has helped me and as I move into my next project I will pick some more dates from the book and hope for the same success.
So far I have been on maybe six or seven dates, each one helped my writing in some way but the two that significantly influenced a couple of scenes in my novel were;
Date number 5 – Visit a Crematorium or Graveyard
Date number 23 – Attend an event of Grand Proportions