Play

I usually start the new year with a very clear idea of what my theme is going to be. I wrote about this back at the beginning of January. Usually it comes to me as an obvious choice; last year it was ‘health’. A bit of a no-brainer really.

This year I was throwing around ideas about learning, creativity, listening, paying more attention to the people I love…….and while all of these seemed like good ideas, nothing really jumped out at me. When this sort of situation emerges, as it does from time to time, I think it’s best to trust the process and wait. Yes, it can feel a bit drifty for a while but then, as surely as the sun appears to rise, I move towards the place I need to be and it’s suddenly there on the horizon.

This week a woman I admire but do not know well sent me this video. She’s an amazing artist and was advertising workshops for the coming year. She attached this half hour piece by John Cleese on creativity:

Creativity; making the time and space for it.

If you have the time to watch it I highly recommend it. If not, here’s the short summary. Creativity happens when we make space for it and when we recognise that it’s a particular mode. We have our day to day mode of operating in the real world but to be creative we need to shift into a mode where we are free to explore the new and the unusual. Cleese suggests that it’s worth timetabling this, actually setting aside a half hour or an hour just to see what emerges.

Importantly he recommends play as the great generator of creativity. The solemn and the serious are the enemies of creativity. Play frees us of our usual constraining thought patterns and allows the new and unusual to emerge.

It’s also just fun.

This was the word I’d been looking for: Play.

I’m going to spend more time this year being playful. I’m going to approach everyday things with a sense of play. I’m going to laugh more and play with the people I love for the joy of it, without expectation or purpose, just for the fun of it.

Already I’m noticing the difference this single word can make to my day. I was heading out to have lunch with a friend on Monday and before I left the house I reminded myself: Play. My friend is always wonderful company but I suspect I was better company for being so light hearted.

I’m inclined to be serious, judgemental, argumentative and stern. It’s almost certainly a hangover from my policing career. I’m likely to be the wet blanket that worries about personal injury or gives you unsolicited advice about leaching chemicals in plastics or oxalic acid in kale. It’s not a lot of fun. It doesn’t make me fun to be around.

This year will be about shifting that default setting. I’ve had a couple of years of some very stern and serious stuff. I need a break and so does everyone close to me. Actually, I need a permanent shift towards playfulness.

I sometimes wonder if the great joy experienced by new grandparents is partly to do with the fact that babies give you permission to play again. We can make silly noises, pull funny faces and roll about on the floor. Why should we need babies to give ourselves permission to do that?

I’ve always balked at those memes that advocate never growing up. To my mind, being a grown up is just about taking responsibility for the consequences of your actions. It doesn’t mean you can’t be joyful or silly or playful. I sometimes wonder if what the authors of these memes are really saying is that we all need a bit more play in our lives. We shouldn’t see it as childish or immature (or perhaps we shouldn’t see ‘childish’ as insulting!). We should consider it one of the great joys of life.

When I watch dolphins leaping for the sheer joy of it, or dogs playing tag with each other, or cats wrestling but not hurting each other it occurs to me that play is natural, normal and probably essential.

John Cleese suggests that humour and play are the space that make creativity possible. We don’t latch on to the first solution we think of. We don’t rely upon the best known way. Play throws up unusual combinations and possibilities. It relieves us of the everyday pressures of life and makes space for something new.

I think it’s great advice when approaching any kind of creative pursuit. I like to paint and I know my painting improves when I just let it happen and don’t think about it too much. Start getting too analytical and it all falls apart. I’m going to try intentional playfulness with anything creative to see what happens.

I also think that play is worthwhile for its own sake. We should set aside some time to be joyful just to be joyful. If we solve world hunger or invent a better mousetrap in the process then that’s an wonderful product of our play, but I don’t think it should be our goal. Play for the fun of it. Approach ordinary activities with a sense of play. Set aside time to play with people you care about.

That’s what I’ll be doing this year.

 

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3 thoughts on “Play

  1. I love that you are going to ‘play’ more. Many years ago I was attending a personal development course with the topic: “Let the child within, play each day”! I have never forgotten it and as it suits my personality to be happy & smile rather than frown and growl, I found this title something I could take hold of and run with it. Being a creative person & a teacher also allowed me ‘time to play’ and now with even more ‘time’ on my hands, my creative side can really take hold again. I have a lot to thank my 2 lots of Cancer for. Not only did it ‘force’ me to stop and take stock of my life, but it allowed me ‘time’ to get back in touch with who I really am, what is really important in my life and how I can be the best person I was born to be! It is a work in progress and I look forward to each day on the road ahead, or should I say ‘roads’ as life has many roads radiating from our life with many experiences along the way. Bring them on I say, and I too will play all the way along J R xx

  2. This is just one of your many wonderful blogs I’ve been browsing through this morning, Meg. It resonated deeply with me. A while ago I experienced a moment in life when I was so happy, I skipped down the passageway back to my workplace. The person who watched me (who is now my boyfriend) said how beautiful it was to see me do that. A short time later we spent Christmas Day together and found a rope hanging off a massive tree on the shoreline of the lake where I’ve been running and walking for years. We both had turns swinging on like two kids.
    I realise how important it is to have people in our lives we can be playful with and also embrace the playfulness in our minds, hearts and bodies. And as you remind me that we can engage with our playful selves to bring joy and lightness to the lives of others.
    Your reflection has helped me recognise ways I already do that but also how easily it can be lost when we are in work usually identified with serious issues and such!
    May you have many playful moments that give your life a special verve 🐬

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