play

The Importance of Play

sidewalk art.jpg

If you want creative workers, give them enough time to play. - John Cleese

Play is our brain's favorite way of learning. - Diane Ackerman

The creation of something new is not accomplished by the intellect but by the play instinct. - Carl Jung

In my recent work with both creativity and writing coaching clients I've found that the key element in getting them out of the doldrums or a sense of being stuck or not being sure where to go with their work is play. Play gets us out of the mind's need for doing and it's focus on product and puts us in the place of being and enjoying the process.

Since creativity comes out of the alchemy of subconscious working in union with the mysteries, play is essential in accessing expanded states of awareness and putting us back into the flow.

This is true not just for art and creative expression but innovation and discoveries in science and technology. I always really enjoyed the books written for popular audiences by Nobel prize winning physicist Richard Feynman that illuminated the way he thought and made his remarkable discoveries. One of the founders of theory of quantum physics. Feynman had an IQ of around 123 which is above average but not close to the genius he was considered to be.

He described his process that lead to his astonishing discoveries as "noodling around", his term for play. He was passionate about the subject and he would just play with different ideas and vantage points and let his mind run with the possibilities.

Ultimately when we engage in creative play in any endeavor it feels good.. Bright ideas, insights and inspiration stream in, time slows down so that hours feels like minutes and we are infused with a feeling of well being. On top of that play encourages variation and doing things in new ways actually builds new neural pathways in the brain which expands our ability to be creative.

So ask yourself, what can I do to add more play to my life and see what ideas pop into your mind as you go about your day. And then have fun!


Feel the Satisfaction of Playing with your Creativity?

True art is characterized by an irresistible urge in the creative artist. - Albert Einstein

mysicrainbow.jpg

We are all creative. It’s a natural capacity, that when we are willing to play with it in new and evolving ways, feeds something deep within us. As Irene Claremont de Castillejo insists, “nothing is more satisfying to the human soul than creating something new. . . “. It doesn’t have to be a complicated art project. It can be a simple as cooking without a recipe like I did this holiday season.

I had the inspiration to add chopped pecans to the apple crisp topping. It turned out especially delicious and everyone love it. Granted I had learned the basics of cooking long ago and made apple crisp many times, so I had the foundation to play with. I enjoy playing with new dishes in the kitchen as one aspect of being creative.

What keeps us from exercising a sense of creative play more often? I recently re-watched Ken Robinson’s brilliant TED talk on YouTube, “Does school kills creativity?”. It’s the most watched TED talk ever, with 50 million views. Clearly it’s a subject that resonates with a lot of people. The heart of his thesis is that school discourages creativity by making us terrified of making mistakes.

In school a mistake has serious consequences. We can fail. It can affect jour entire life, so we learn to fit ourselves in the box of what teachers want and expect based on standardized criteria. There is not a lot of room for creativity.

Then there is social pressure that inhibits creativity. Along with the apple crisp I tried a new way of cooking brussel sprouts. I oven roasted the sprouts and the tossed them in a mixture of applesauce and sriracha. As I was about to pour the sauce over the sprouts, a friend leaned in and said with disbelief dripping from his voice, “is that applesauce?”. They turned out pretty good. Everyone ate them including my friend. I learned that next time I’ll try using half the amount of sauce.

The story is the same for all my creative endeavors from the countless rolls of film I used in learning to do black and white photography to the reams of paper as I went through as I practiced the art of writing. I have made a vast quantity of mistakes as I discovered what worked and what didn’t and built the muscles of my creative capacities.

What I learned along the way following my urge to create was to fall in love with the process, mistakes and all. Our creative self is less concerned with a finished product than the satisfaction experienced from the act of creating. When we are willing to play with the process without attachment to outcome we are often surprised and delighted by what comes through us.

As we enter the new year I want to invite you to creative play. Take a minute and check in with your creative self. What would she really like to do. Start with ten minutes a day to ease through any resistance, breathe into any fear of making a mistake, be curious and ask “what else is possible here” and see what comes. Above all have fun.