It doesn’t have to be perfect, just interesting.

I’m a big fan of Julia Cameron’s ideas, author of The Artist’s Way. She writes about creativity and ways to spark it. One of her methods is the “artist date”. You take yourself on a “date” to do something that interests you. It’s a small excursion, the kind that your child self loved. It doesn’t have to be a “big event”.

I’ve learnt from artist dates is that it doesn’t even have to be good. Like a first date with a new person, it may be awful, or boring or entirely unsuitable. But however it turns out, it will give you new ideas and a fresh perspective. At the very worst you may simply realise that you never want to do that again.

Do you need to shake up your life? Maybe you need to try new things. Not all of them will be good. There will be risks. Probably not physical risks, but maybe. Just like dating, there will be awkward first times and “once is enough” and “never would have been better”. But you’ll never know what you love if you don’t get out there.

You’ll never find new hobbies or friends or foods without taking a chance on the unknown… and the experience doesn’t have to be pleasant.

I went to a modern Chinese art gallery at lunchtime recently. It’s a small gallery over three floors. Much of it I forget but one piece stays with me. On the top floor was an enormous leather handbag that was also a full-size military tank. It was collapsed on the floor. That tank was about the massacre at Tiananmen Square in 1989. It hit me. I remember the news when I was young.

That artwork portrayed the source of that militant massacre as a collapsed handbag. Wow. I didn’t need to read the explanation. The work spoke for itself.

So a new experience doesn’t have to be pleasant, or perfect, or even enjoyable, it just needs to be interesting. That image has been on my mind for weeks. I don’t know what it means to me exactly but it is a powerful metaphor. It makes me see in a new way. Finding meaning in the unexpected.