Creativity and playfulness (having fun) always exist together. Children at play create. They experiment with whatever is at hand. They invent new roles and try them out.
Creative people talk about ‘playing with ideas’. Artists and writers, cooks and gardeners all experiment. They try out new ways of doing things. Albert Einstein is quoted as saying, ‘Creativity is the intellect having fun.’
Play can be defined as engagement in activity for enjoyment and recreation. Its opposite is activity undertaken for a serious or practical purpose. Play engages the brain in ways that silence the “inner editor,” which censors a person’s thoughts and ideas. Play enables one to see problems from a different angle. It helps to generate solutions.
Sometimes creativity and playfulness become difficult, if not impossible. Problems arise that make our lives difficult or tedious. We feel anxious and exhausted or else we become agitated and distressed.
Relaxation and rest are the antidotes to onerous events and occasions. Recreation and play restore vitality to minds and bodies. Play is a form of self-care which nourishes our spirits. It can be boisterous and rowdy. It can involve fun and frivolity. Sometimes, it is peaceful and restful.
Our own well-being and our relationships flourish when we play. We have fun with our lovers, our children and friends. Fooling around with colleagues helps to relieve stress at work.Play can also be a solitary pursuit.
Attitude and choice are important. Most situations improve when we choose to bring creativity and playfulness into the equation. How we think about what we do changes how we do it. Imagination-at-play creates fun. Instead of vacuuming, imagine dancing with the cleaner. Instead of washing the car, play with the bubbles. Pilot an aeroplane while driving. Think up new ways to do the same old chores.
Very young children play by themselves. As they mature they play alongside others before finally learning to play with others. At each stage, they learn through their play. We can recapture and use those stages of playfulness.
Our creative selves are like children. They need the one-on-one nurturing that children need. Making things at any age demands a constant supply of sensory images and ideas. It also requires openness to imagination and possibilities.
Julia Cameron, author of many books on creativity, including The Artist’s Way, suggests we should take ourselves regularly on ‘creative dates’. She describes these as planned outings undertaken alone. Each outing should be for a couple of hours, weekly. The purpose is to ‘fill the well’ of sensory imagery that can be drawn on in later creative activities. A haberdashery shop, a model railway display, a place of worship different from the one you usually attend, a beach, a park or a bus ride all qualify. The list is endless. The idea is to be as curious and open as a child.
As John Cleese says, ‘The very essence of playfulness is an openness to anything that may happen, the feeling that whatever happens, it’s okay…’