Learning to Play

I recently launched an online course called 30 Days of Creative Play™ that is designed to provide a kick start to one’s creativity when it starts lagging through 30 days of 15-minute creative exploration exercises. Over the course of this week, I want to discuss how I came to creative play and some of the major falsehoods about it.

When I first started experimenting with creative play, “play” was not in my vocabulary. Play is not something that I am good at; I wasn’t even good at it as a child. I’ve been incredibly serious (my sister might say “boring”) from nearly the beginning so by the time I became an adult, there was nothing remotely like play in my life. But, when I was barely into my 30s, I became desperate for it. I was working in a soul-crushing job with a horrible commute and it was killing me. I don’t remember what caused this moment of clarity, but I realized that to make it through the job until I could find something better, I needed to do something creative. I needed to create to counteract work that I thought was pointless and I needed something that fed my soul to keep it from dying in that job. That’s when I started Creative Play™.

When I first started Creative Play™, I didn’t have any grand plans. Since I am a quilter, I decided I would try out a new technique or tool each week and blog about it. I made small pieces that could be easily accomplished in a brief period of time with no goal in mind for them other than to experiment and have fun. That creative outlet helped me survive that job, but it also gave me a chance to expand my quilting skills and add a whole range of techniques to my repertoire. Some of those techniques that I played with then have come back into my work ten years later. I also found myself suddenly much more alive than I had ever been, even while still killing myself working for a bank.

Fast forward five years and I found myself again in another soul-crushing job (How did I let that happen again??), only this time, I also had a toddler. Between full-time work and full-time parenting, I was barely keeping my head above water and any thoughts of finding creative time were just hopeless. But, as before, I realized that something needed to change or I was going to wind up in the hospital with a heart attack or something. So slowly, I started to play again. This time though, I didn’t limit myself to quilting techniques, but I started doing anything creative, from coloring in coloring books to watercolor painting. I took a few online classes in a variety of media that I had never explored before and experimented, played, and enjoyed myself. I realized that it only took me a few minutes a day of some creative activity and my blood pressure came down, I was able to breathe again, and I found the patience I needed to manage toddlers, both at home and at the office.

I eventually quit that horrible job and rather than rush right into another one (though I interviewed for it), I stepped back, spent more time creating, and realized that I was even more on fire creatively than I had been before. Ideas came easily and the art that I was creating actually looked like what I had envisioned. (That was new!) “There must be something to this,” I thought and I began to formalize the play that I had been experimenting with over a decade into the Creative Play™ program. I realized that I had actually spent a lot of time reading about creativity, learning about it through trial and error, and devising a set of exercises that could be done in 15 minutes a day. I thought that there might be others feeling like I was – frustrated, unfulfilled, adrift – and that by capturing what I had learned, I could spare others the decade of trial and error. And thus, 30 Days of Creative Play™ was born.

I’ll be addressing Creativity Falsehood #1 tomorrow. Stay tuned!

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