The Value of Creative Play
(The following blog is based on a quick Brain Pickings post, found here.)
Many wise and well-known creatives, all of them masters of their craft, have written about the nexus between creativity and childhood. E. E. Cummings wrote: “The Artist is no other than he who unlearns what he has learned, in order to know himself.” Cummings suggests that in order to return to our creative source, we must strip away the cultural expectations and stipulations that define what is an artist--that suggest that, whatever it is, we are not it.
Charles Baudelaire wrote: “Genius is nothing more nor less than childhood recovered at will.” The child—unfettered by the accumulation of knowledge, and accustomed to play and imaginative dreaming—experiences no separation from the creative source and no dearth of possibility.
Beethoven, in a letter to a young fan, wrote: “Do not only practice art, but get at the very heart of it; this it deserves, for only art and science raise men to the God-head.” To me, this sounds like a call to get out of the mind and into the heart—out of the loops of thinking, rationality, and reason, and into the body and spirit, where things are simply known and understood. When we are too caught up in our head, fears can weigh us down and shrivel up our ability to create. Children don’t know enough to be scared—they don’t know about getting an agent, the difficulties of breaking into the publishing industry, the hellish necessity of making a living. Lacking that fear, they can simply create. And creating looks a lot like play.
With all of this in mind, I’ve discovered that creative play is the trick for reconnecting to the creative source and to inspiration. If the process is getting too hard—if the words are not coming, if inspiration is running dry, if I can’t find my next project—the best thing I can do is play, jumpstarting creativity through another medium.
Creativity is creativity, especially when I can separate it from my desire to look like I know what I’m doing. I feel I’ve declared it enough to the world that I am a writer and I am going to pursue writing that I better be at least a little bit good at it. But I’ve made no such promises about my painting or my dancing. These are two mediums in which I can turn on my creativity and allow myself to play.
During a stretch of writers’ block this past spring, as I was looking for a new story idea, I brought out some acrylics and painted. After I filled two canvases, a matter of maybe 10 minutes, I had an idea for my new novel, a fantasy I’m getting close to completing.
Whatever your usual medium, why not try something new? Pick up a paintbrush, a pen. Put on some dancing music. Coming at creativity from a new angle can knock you out of your head and into your heart, a more playful and welcoming place for inspiration to strike.
Please note that I will not be posting on my blog for the next two Sundays due to being at a creative writing residency! The next post will be July 2nd!