Today I had the great pleasure of spending the afternoon with my good and special friend the magical, starry writer Bhanu Kapil. We drank tea, ate plum muffins, took a ferry across the Thames with a lanky Alsatian, gossiped, walked in the rain, and read tarot cards as I drank chai and she drank energy tea. (I also cleaned house before her arrival. That special a friend.)
We also did some serious writerly stuff: read poetry; talked about teaching; shared our notebooks; discussed approaches to structure and form; set targets (mine from Bhanu included a list of gratitudes); the general upbeat coaching, coaxing, and bullying you can do with those you know and those who know you (and those who know those you both know). Except it never felt serious. It was playful, fun, rejuvenating.
(Also, we sat at a table numbered 108, which is a magic number. It’s the number of beads in a seat of Hindu prayer beads, it has all sorts of association with the number of 3 – it inspired, e.g., the number of sections in Eat Pray Love: look at all the multiples of 3 that it’s divisible by. Accidental magics.)
But this is supposed to be a Friday Writing Experiment (and I have twenty minutes left of Friday).
This week, put a twist on the warm and wonderful Julia Cameron’s idea of the Artist Date (and see video below). Julia asks us to take ourselves on a ‘once-weekly, festive, solo expedition’ to fire up the imagination and rediscover our sense of play; how about taking such an expedition with a good friend? Maybe they write too, or practise other forms of art, or maybe they’re just inspiring. Call them, or email them, and arrange to take yourselves to some place that’s new to at least one of you: a garden, a new coffeeshop, a neighbourhood a short train journey away. Or maybe this is your chance to try a videocall on Skype for the first time? Go somewhere that you can talk and look at each other without needing to be polite to things on sales racks or in exhibition cases. The only other requirements are a notebook and pen.
Then do some/all of the following:
* Document the meeting.
* Read aloud some of your recent work.
* Discuss some of the accomplishments and challenges in your recent writing.
* Gossip. (Gossip is at the heart of all the best stories. Gossip gives voice. Gossip is good.)
* Make an offering (we left a petal and a berry on a statue of Ganesh, but you can leave any old rock under a tree, if you wish – just pick both rock and tree purposefully).
* Later on, or there and then if you have time, take two random images/words/sounds from your time together and create a story or poem that unites these items.
* Give each other writing experiments, but only do them there and there if it feels fun; otherwise do them that evening before you go to bed.
* Commit acts of creative divination.
* Look for the tilts in the landscape. Seek out the points of entry and departure. Be alert for the unexpected, and accidental magics.
* Bring/buy each other an inexpensive gift that is in some way meaningful to your meeting and/or each other’s practice.
* Take photographs.
* Bring an umbrella.
At the very least, write something inspired by this meeting, even if it’s just a journal entry, or an email describing the day to another friend. But a story or a poem could be even nicer.
Most of all: be sustained. Creative health relies on such friendships. As my date said in correspondence later:
Gossip recalibrates, talking about writing reminds one of one’s fate. Being with a friend rejuvenates.
Update on the morrow: And here is Bhanu’s own Document of a Date. (A magical healing Mr Fox. I’ll take that. Thanks for a great date, Bhanu!)