How To Be Creative 04: Play

When you were a child, being creative was encouraged. You probably had more crayons, watercolors, and construction paper than you could handle, and your work was on constant display at the gallery — aka your classroom wall or home refrigerator. But at some point, it went the way of afternoon recess. Stolen away because you had to study things like history, mathematics, and A Tale of Two Cities. Maybe no one explicitly told you to stop having fun, but there was still some kind of guilt induced for not being productive. Soon enough you worried about having a steady job — a huge hit to the imagination.

Young man playing and laughingPhoto: Silviu Benjamin Tofan

What many people forget is that letting go and doing what’s natural is exactly what we need to keep functioning at a high level. We don’t have to forge ahead 24/7 and risk burnout. Playtime can be that break in our routine that helps us create bold, new ideas.

Young woman playing on swings
Photo: Analise Benevides

So break out the sketchbook and canvas, but don’t forget there are lots of ways to have fun. Grab a six-pack and race friends on big wheels you can hardly pedal. Re-create scenes from your all-time favorite tv shows. And for extra credit, pick an age from your past and spend half a day doing exactly what you would have wanted to do at that age. When I did this for the six-year-old me, it meant pinball and going to the beach to draw in the sand. But it was incredibly freeing and honored a past version of myself that still lives within me.

Play won’t guarantee greatness, but toiling all day doesn’t either. And guess what — this is going to be way more fucking fun.

Ready to take action? Be sure to check out:
Play is more than just fun – TED Talk from Stuart Brown
Play doesn’t end with childhood – All Things Considered
Go deep on play – American Journal of Play