“The creative adult is just the child who survived.” – Ursula K. LeGuin
You’re stuck creatively. You try hard to rack your brain, but every idea that you come up with is as shallow as the last one. So you continue to slave away at your computer, studio, or easel, hoping to coerce that next big idea out of your head.
The problem is that your greatest ideas don’t come from structure or coercion, in fact, they come from a place more spontaneous, unstructured, and fluid. Your best ideas come from when you play. Carl Jung once said, “The creation of something new is not accomplished by the intellect but by the play instinct.”
I’m sure you’re familiar with play since it’s all you did as a kid. It was through play in which you learned about the world around you, how you made friends, and for the most part, what you looked forward to everyday. But as you grew older, play became less important, something trivial in comparison to your “real” responsibilities. It’s a shame that as we grow old we lose our ability to play, because its components – curiosity, risk-taking, trial and error – are the same ones that fuel creative and innovative work.
If you want to improve your ability to create new and exciting things you have to inject play back into your life. Here are five ways to get started.
Be Willing To Play Again
It is hard sometimes to see something you did as a child as something that you should do as an adult. But if there is one thing that serves you well from cradle to grave, it is the ability to play. Getting over the psychological barrier that play is reserved for kids is the first and most important step. Trust in play, trust that others won’t judge, and trust in environments that promote healthy doses of it. By giving yourself unconditional permission to play again, you overcome the biggest barrier to accessing your most honest and creative self.
Take Your Play History
Did you to play soccer when you were younger? Maybe you gave up on your dreams of being the next big stand up comedian for a life as a bean counter? Tapping into your past is a sure fire way to figure out what kind of play you should be doing right now. So start reminiscing about the old days, and answer this quick question, “When you were young, what made you come alive?” Your play history should be a good guide to figuring out what types of hobbies and activities are authentic to you.
Try Object Play
Object play can range from everything to playing an instrument to solving Rubik’s Cubes. When Richard Feynman grappled with complex mathematical equations, he engaged in what’s called “acoustic imaging,” often expressing those equations by pounding and mumbling (it helps to know that Feynman was also an accomplished bongo player). Did you ever play an instrument that you can pick up again? How about trying your hand at juggling? or maybe you’re a tech tinkerer ala Steve Wozniak? If you fancy yourself someone who likes to play with toys, tinker with technology, or in general find yourself wondering about the physical objects in your world, try and make object play a common occurrence in your creative life.
Move Your Body
Motion at its core is the most basic form of play. You see this often in the animal kingdom and in young children as they roll, tumble, wrestle, grapple, jump, and toss. There is no shortage of playful motions. For the most part, movement structures our knowledge of the world and even helps lubricate our social relationships. As kids, we learned that crawling was better than staying put, and that walking around was better than crawling, and that throwing things across the room was infinitely more interesting than not. The great thing about motion play is that there are tons of different ways to get started. You can join the company softball team, or take breakdancing lessons at the local dance studio, or join a Gracie Barra for Brazilian Jiu Jitsu lessons. Getting your body in motion is a perfect way (and healthy one at that) to inject more play into your life.
Surround Yourself With Those Who Value Play
This one might be the hardest of them all, since not everyone will be lucky to work at places with play at the center of their success or be friends with people who value play. If you’re workplace or social circle doesn’t see play as important, then you can take it upon yourself to find circles that do. Try looking for groups on Meetup for people who share a playful hobby of yours, or if one doesn’t exist, then start your own! Surrounding yourself with people who also value play is immensely important, since they’ll keep you motivated to continue pursuing more playful avenues in your life.
As humans we are designed to find creative fulfillment and express our core truths through play. It’s from these core truths that our creativity flows. So give yourself permission to play again and don’t be afraid to schedule in some daily play time for yourself – it may be just what you need to bring your best ideas to life.
Kevin Asuncion is the founder of Movemo, a health and fitness company that teaches and empowers those who move our world forward to live healthier so that they can increase the positive change they make in the world. You can follow him on Twitter @movemofitness.