One of my daughters has always been a playful, creative inventor, looking for ways to add tangible fun to her days. Once, she dragged a plastic bottle and paper towel tube from the recycling bin, grabbed a handful of rubber bands and duct-taped everything together to make a ukulele. It didn’t play, but she sure had fun trying.
Years later she applied this playful mindset to her part-time job at a dog kennel. The dogs would yap and bound playfully, but she invented even more fun by playing games such as trying to beat a self-imposed time limit while washing dog bowls or hosing down crates. She’s discovering what research is indicating: work does not preclude play.
Play energizes our work.
And playful writers energize their work with fun
In a 2009 TED talk, Dr. Stuart Brown claims play is more than fun—it’s vital for adults. “Nothing lights up the brain like play.”
Jessica Walsh writes in a Good Magazine article that play is vital for brain growth. And she says several conditions are helpful for play to succeed, like having the confidence to fail, having plenty of time to play around with our work, having persistence, and having space to experiment.
If we’ve been all work and no play for months on end, we’ll need to experiment to find what fits us and discover the best way to incorporate it into our days.
Dr. Brown says, in that TED talk, to explore back as far as you can to your “most clear, joyful, playful image,” whether it’s with a toy, at a birthday, or on a vacation. Build that joy into your life now.
Are you the type to repurpose juice bottles into musical instruments, or draw smiley faces on milk cartons? Pull out the Sharpies and duct tape and give it a try. Pull out a puzzle to work on, or challenge someone to a game of Bananagrams. Crank up some disco music and spin a hula hoop.
Or play in the world of words. Write some flash fiction, pen a poem from a prompt, write a goofy letter to a friend in the voice of a long-lost aunt.
Let play remind you how to be childlike. Let it light up your brain and feed your creativity. Research says the playful writer will come back with more energy and ideas than ever.
If you are able to pull out that early, clear, joyful memory and write about it, or if you do something playful this week, would you let us know?
Drop into the comments below a link to something you write, or explain it to us.
Ideas from this episode:
- Dr. Stuart Brown in a Ted talk says play is more than fun—it’s vital for adults. “Nothing lights up the brain like play.”
- Jessica Walsh writes that play is vital to brain growth.
- She writes that to be playful, we need:
- confidence to fail
- plenty of time
- time away from responsibilities
- Dr. Brown suggests thinking back to childhood, to the most “clear, joyful, playful image that you have,” and try to incorporate that into your life today.
- Play: spin hula hoop, work a puzzle
- Play with words: Write some poetry or flash fiction
- How to Be More Productive and Creative at Work? Play More
- Play is More Than Just Fun (Dr. Brown’s Ted talk transcript)
- Poetry Prompts from Tweetspeak Poetry
- Stories in Your Pocket: How to Write Flash Fiction
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Thanks, Ann 🙂 When I think of what I enjoyed as a kid, I’m trying to think what would translate still as enjoyable to me as an adult. The one thing I did enjoy that I still enjoy is reading fiction.
Ann Kroeker says
Thank you for sharing that, Dolly! Can you find some space in the week ahead to read some fiction? I know your life is busy right now…but I hope you find some time.
One of my joys was to browse the library shelves for anything that caught my eye, something to learn, something information that would help me be smarter, wiser, more skillful. Usually nonfiction. I like fiction and read it, enjoying the characters, the stories, the escape. But learning…how I loved to learn something new. It empowered me somehow.