Creatives at play
Writer's Corner
Scott Stoops  

Creatives need to play

Reading Time: 4 minutes

“If you want creative workers, give them enough time to play.”

John Cleese

We need an Adventure!

This past Saturday began, as most days do, with Ginger and I having a morning cup of coffee and talking about the day ahead. Although we have got a lot going on, we felt the draw of adventure. Sometimes, we must put aside projects to get out and do things. We both know that creatives need to play. So we decided to go.

The question became where to go. We settled this quickly: Lake Erie!. Specifically, Sandusky. Ginger had never been, and although I have been often, there are museums that I have wanted to visit. After a quick trip to the local farmers’ market and gathering a few picnic supplies, we headed out with only the first stop in mind, the Maritime Museum. The only other plans were to play it by ear.

The objective: have fun.

Too busy not to play

“Creativity is intelligence having fun.”

Albert Einstein

Over the past couple of months, we have been taking care of things around the house, establishing a garden in a new location, and dealing with unexpected and sometimes unwanted surprises that come with living in an 1890s farmhouse. Ginger and I engage in creative projects and activities together and separately.

“If you want something done, ask a busy person to do it.”

It’s easier to steer a moving ship than one sitting on the docks.” 

Busy people get things done. This busyness is often beneficial precisely because the person is in motion. Ideas flow, and actions are taken. There is nothing wrong with busyness. But, busyness can deplete creative energies.

By engaging in play we can step away from the projects for a time to let our minds wander. Sometimes not thinking about whatever it is I am working on has opened me up to new ideas and I have gone back to those projects with new insights and direction.

Playing a game of Battleship

Battleship on Lake Erie
Battleship on Lake Erie

Our first adventure this past weekend lead us to the Maritime Museum in Sandusky. I geek out at museums. The quirkier the better. Niche museums are great places to learn and discover because they are devoted to atypical subjects.

Just inside the entrance to one of the buildings stood a life-sized set of Battleship boards based on the battle of Lake Erie that was a decisive victory in the War of 1812.

Ginger looked at me and said, “Let’s play.” 

We took our sides, arranged our ships, and began. I called coordinates; she called coordinates. Hits and misses. You sunk my schooner!

A small group of spectators gathered around, watching the battle.

The battle raged until we both had only one ship left. She hit my frigate. I hit brig. Because of how I had played, I knew I was only, at most, two moves away from victory. She had three or four possibilities. I called the final hit and won the battle.

We played a Battleship and added in the dynamic of setting it during the War of 1812. After a picnic lunch in a nearby park, we went in search of caches hidden nearby. We did not find the first. The second cache was located at the end of one of the piers and on the light pole. I had to balance atop the railing designed to keep me from falling headlong into the lake to retrieve the cache. Later in the day, we sought out places to hike and found a field with an endangered species of wildflowers.

All of these things are playing to us.

What are ways that creatives can play?

sawing ice
Sawing ice

What Ginger and I call play is going to be different from others. We are both eclectic in many areas of our lives. There is a wide range of things that we are interested in and enjoy doing. We are also adventurous, so there is not too much that is off-limits for us.

 In her excellent article Why all creatives need to explore, and play. Sheryl Garratt lists several ideas for exploring creative, playful activities. In a related article, Artist’s Date: Making space for inspiration, she explores the importance of an artist’s date and the benefit of stepping away for even a brief, but regular, time in pursuit of those things that bring us joy.

One of the keys to using play as a spark for creativity is to do things that differ from what we are accustomed to. Trying something new or even doing something familiar in a new way trains us to look at life and the things around us differently.

It may seem obvious, but play should be playful. What we choose to do can be restful and relaxing, such as a quiet walk through the woods. It can be something silly.

Creatives need to play!

“Play is the highest form of research.”

Albert Einstein

The truth is, we all need to have a healthy dose of playing in our lives. The quote by Albert Einstein reminds us that creativity is a vital part of being intelligent creatures. And playing helps us to cultivate that creativity. Through play, we refresh our minds and bodies, set distractions aside for a little while, and stimulate ideas.

Spontaneity is important for me. I much prefer the spur-of-the-moment events and the day trips where only the destination may be known ahead of time. Ginger and I usually plan a certain amount of “if anything interesting comes up along the way then we can stop” into our trips. Even more important for us is being attentive enough to see the opportunities to take the time, to explore, to look deeper.

What does play mean for you? Drop a line in the comments and let me know.

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