I started reading a book called “Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul” by Stuart Brown, M.D., founder of the National Institute for Play, (Who knew there was such a thing?) and Christopher Vaughan. I am completely riveted. I’m learning about all of the benefits of play for kids to develop problem solving and social skills, and for adults in preventing brain degeneration. I’m finding the topic fascinating, but of course my main interest is in the benefits of creative play. Interestingly, it was in a chapter about kids and play where I found the phrase that stopped me in my tracks.
Brown and Vaughan write, “. . . the self that emerges through play is the core, authentic self” (emphasis in the original, pg.107). “That’s it exactly!” I thought. As an adult engaged in creative play, it may not be that the authentic self is emerging, but rather re-emerging, but that’s exactly how I felt as I began to play more and get back in tune with my creativity. I finally felt right again, like I was back in my own body rather than looking at myself from the outside wondering who I had become. As I got more comfortable with my authentic self (whom I had not known in a VERY long time), the most amazing things happened. I was finding inspiration on an almost daily basis and creating art that for the first time, really spoke to me. I also began feeling joy, an unexpected but incredible benefit.
Last month, I ended my newsletter article by saying, “Let the creative journey begin!” But in truth, I have been on my creative journey for a very long time and I suspect that you have too. In 2007, I started a blog that I called “Creative Play.” My idea was to try something new each week, to play around in my studio and to post the results. My last project was a year-long weekly journal quilt project that I wrapped up the week after my daughter was born. She then became my study in creativity. I began to realize both that creativity is innate and that it is important, important enough to be a vital part of early life.
I appreciate now that “Creative Play” came about because I unconsciously realized that I was missing both creativity and play in my life. If I think back to the playing that I did as a child, I recognize that most of it was actually just pretend work. I created a library card catalogue for my children’s books. I played architect and drew floor plans at a TV tray desk that I set up in my room. I got a label maker for my 11th birthday and I loved it. I understand that there is creativity in each of these, but one of the things that I finally realized during the past year was that I forgot how to truly play a really long time ago. Relearning that and more importantly, believing that playing is really okay, was a major step in rediscovering my creativity.
One of the things that I have done this year, to bring about more play in my life, is to create a toy box for myself. Friends of ours from England generously hauled across an ocean a Fortnum & Mason hamper to us. Once the tea, biscuits, and jam were gone, I appropriated the hamper to be my toy chest and I filled it with art supplies. Now, when I am in the need of a little play time and want a change from my typical medium, I reach into it for some crayons or paints and I play.