I believe that everyone has their own kind of creativity, regardless of job or lifestyle. Creativity has endless forms and ways of expression. It brings out our problem solver. When stress or life or you name it interferes, we become more limited in our ability to innovate and be our best.
As an artist, I rely on yoga, mediation, sleep and eating well to keep me centered and healthy. However, I often need to be reminded that for me, play is the key ingredient for me to be successful creatively.
Play allows me to ask questions and look at known information in new ways. Play taps me into my sense of wonder about the world, and it gives me the confidence and the freedom to take greater risks and jump into the unknown.
For me, play can be many things: painting; going on a walk and discovering an unknown street or neighborhood; a brainstorming game with a friend; improvising in the studio to music; trying on clothes that are not my usual style, etc. It involves doing something physical, is creative and it takes me away from the problem (and electronics). It can be three minutes or 30; any amount is helpful.
Despite all of the wonderful benefits play provides me, I often have to remind myself to engage in play on a regular basis. For me, it can seem frivolous and counterproductive in achieving the goal I am working towards. If a deadline is involved, I will often feel I canʼt make time for play; but if I make a little time for it, my work becomes efficient and easy. Just the same way that intentionally setting aside time for mediation creates more calm and connectedness, setting aside time for play also creates more inspiration and flow.
Training to be a dancer takes years of relentless effort and determination to perfect form and technique. Through the endless trials and errors that exist to mold their mental, physical and spiritual muscles, dancers are constantly failing towards each new success. This is necessary so that the body, mind and spirit have enough time to fully integrate the finely tuned coordination necessary to achieve an effortless performance. As the old adage goes, you canʼt break the rules until you know them.
This is true for anyone pursuing any form of the arts. Many art forms today enjoy a long heritage of continual development through new innovation and societal shaping. The successful artist is constantly finding new ways to refine and sharpen their instrument towards mastery.
It can be easy for artists to lose perspective and get caught up in a continual cycle of refining, if they feel they do not live up to the standard they set for themselves. They can become withdrawn and their productivity slows, or even stops. Typically being very diligent, obsessive people, artists who constantly hear phrases like "go hard or go home", "practice makes perfect" or the popular "no pain, no gain" can get lost in a dangerous spiral of obsessive practice and self doubt.
How does play combat this disheartening and unproductive spiral?
Play brings you right back to the start. It clears the slate and offers a fresh unknown. It doesn't need to cost anything and it is available at your fingertips. You can play and discover on your own, or with a group of people.
You are a more fearless artist when you play. You are not afraid of risk; in fact, you get excited about risk. You are curious and ask questions like -- "What if?" "I wonder?" "How can I approach this differently?" "How can I shake this up more?" "What could be unexpected and refreshing?" You commit harder to the creation process, because you are part of the answer. You donʼt get tied up in musing about outside opinions, because if they are not playing with you during the creative process, they donʼt hold the perspective of the event.
Ironically, play brings out leadership qualities. Every move or instinct you act on becomes an executive decision. Play makes you feel bold, daring and rebellious -- it boosts your inner superhero. And in the long run, play actually saves you time. Instead of endless circling around a problem, stopping to play shakes it up and energizes you to approach and find a solution quickly from a new angle.
I know that I sleep more soundly after a day that felt fulfilling and was a creative success. Play for me often involves long durations of laughter; therefore play is also good for my abs!
Play inspires you to have fun while focusing in on your wishes, i.e. choosing to enjoy your journey. The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence until you start watering your own lawn. I think jealousy (of lifestyle, of famous people, of others achieving goals that you want for yourself, etc.) is that other people are having more fun than you are. In truth, you are holding the watering can but not nourishing your own lawn.
Perhaps most importantly, for me -- play charges up my inner child and reminds me of why I pursued a profession in the arts in the first place. When I am juiced up and loving what I am doing, others want to join in. The energy of play is contagious and lifts the energy of those around you. Your family, your peers and your community will only benefit from you playfully bringing your best self to the table.
And without further ado -- Iʼm off to play!