When we were kids, creativity and play were interconnected, innate, and fundamental to life. As adult creatives, however, our brains are always being rewarded for checking items off our to-do lists instead. Inbox zero? Ping! Empty sink and clean dishes? Ping, ping!
So how do we juggle our competing responsibilities and distractions, face rejection, improve as creatives, and have the motivation to keep moving forward? One way is to rediscover the joy of the journey and build resilience through play.
Play relieves stress, increases creativity and energy, and gives our bodies and brains much-needed breaks. And who knows what inspiration we may find along the way? Our best ideas often come not when we’re hammering away at a problem, but once we focus on something else entirely.
Author John Claude Bemis uses tactile, imaginative activities to open up different ways of thinking and solve story problems. Tarot cards, board games like Apples to Apples, or playing with clay can help generate fresh ideas, says Bemis. Even reading nonfiction or studying history can become a childlike game of “what if?”
“Play activates your story through joy and fun,” Bemis says, “which reminds you why you started writing in the first place.”
As a writer, mom, and yoga instructor, I once thought play was something I could only squeeze in once my to-do list was complete. I felt guilty for taking time to do something for the sheer fun of it. As I learned to take better care of myself over the years though, play became as important a self-care practice as yoga and meditation.
Taking time to play not only keeps my right brain happy, it helps qualm those pesky feelings of ‘never enough.’ Instead of earning my play times, I schedule them right alongside other important appointments and goals. Nothing says, “I’ve done enough,” like taking time to play!
So how do we find the time to play in our very adult lives? Start with small goals like adding one activity a week or 10 minutes of play a day. If you have trouble keeping your own play dates, put them on your calendar too. Promise yourself that you’ll make the time because you know you’ll be more creative for it.
What qualifies as play? There are no rules except this: Play’s only purpose is joy. What makes you happy? What would you do more of if you could? Here are a few suggestions to get you started:
spend time with a kid and let them choose the activity
play a board game
join an interest club
rediscover a childhood sport or game
play an instrument
listen to music
do a craft
stare at the clouds
jump on a trampoline
Wherever you are in your creative process, find time to play this week. Better yet, start now. Yahtzee, anyone?
Christa Hogan has published 15 nonfiction educational books for kids. After two decades of freelancing, she is seeking representation for fiction and nonfiction picture books and a middle grade novel. She’s also a certified yoga teacher and loves to help creatives craft lives that support their best work. Please connect with Christa on Twitter @christachogan and Facebook @christahoganyoga.
For more on this topic, check out Carol Baldwin’s post about John Bemis linking creativity to play.