Hello! It’s the first week of the #sparksummerschool and we’re going to be looking at the theme of Play.
When I devised this course I had considered starting with ‘Looking Inside’ as it always feels most natural for me to start with a bit of introspection, but then I realised that a real issue for me, when it comes to kick-starting my creativity after a bit of a break, or when I’m feeling run-down, is that even just thinking about my creativity feels like a bit too much pressure. My mind jumps ahead and starts over-thinking, it wants to be creative again and it jumps into ideas that could turn into things, stuff that could lead to work, and the fun is gone.
Nope. Not this time. Sometimes we just need reminding that the creativity is still there. That it isn’t just a tool for other things, it isn’t something we wheel out when we need ideas. It’s a fundamental part of who we are, and it needs nurturing and attention if it’s going to help us get to where we want to go.
So, this week the course is all about spending some time thinking about Play in your own terms.
What does that mean to you? What does playing in your creativity feel like, look like? Is it getting out your favourite materials or tools or equipment and noodling around? Is it trying something completely new, like picking up a paintbrush, writing some poetry, singing or playing music? Is it dressing up in all your clothes or cooking a meal with random ingredients from the fridge? Is it going for a walk with no destination in mind or allowing yourself an hour of making with no expectation of an output?
Is play a state of mind or an activity? Is it sudden, spontaneous, risky or is it contained, planned, safe?
What activities feel most like play to me?
How do I feel before I start to play?
How do I feel after I finish playing?
When was the last time I played?
Personally I find play really hard. I am a naturally uptight kind of person and I always wonder, when I’m put in a play situation ‘am I doing this right?’ Which completely undermines the whole point! For me, play is more a state of mind than a particular activity. I like doing some things that have no practical application whatsoever, like writing the same words over and over again in different colours or in different styles. I enjoy re-organising my pinboard with new bits I’ve collected or found, ripped out pages from magazines or photos I’ve taken. This is low-risk play for me. I know I can do it, but I still find it enjoyable and absorbing. High risk play is when I know I’m not that skilled at it (painting or drawing for example) and I begin to question or doubt. However, give me some colours to mix or repetitive marks to make and I feel ok. I shift the play from high risk to low risk myself. Sometimes a bit of low risk play is exactly what we need to get back on track with our creativity, to coax it out of hiding. But sometimes a bit of high risk play is exactly what pushes us out of a rut or complacency. It entirely depends where you are with your practice right now.
Questions to ask:
What things are low risk play for you? (make a short list)
Try to do a few of them this week.
How does it feel? What do you notice?
What things are high risk play for you? (pick one or two)
Have a go at one of them.
What was it like? What happened when you got started?
For some people play is natural and simple, and this week will feel like a doddle. For some of you allowing yourself time and space to play, to do something with no goals or purpose feels strange. Notice this. Where is the resistance? Where is the ease? I don’t want to make you feel bad if play is tricky for you. This course is not about success or failure – if the questions or activities don’t resonate or work for you that’s fine. But, I always like to ask why. What do we learn about ourselves, about how our creativity likes to come out and play, by asking ourselves to do something a bit different today?
RESOURCES FOR THE WEEK
The resources I’ve selected for you to read, watch, listen to aren’t a definitive list. There’s lots out there on the importance of play to creativity, and to humans in general!
I’m not expecting anyone to go out and get all the books or to listen to every episode of these podcasts. They’re just some places I found interesting ideas or that sparked some thinking for me.
Later on in the week I’ll be asking you for your favourite resources to do with play – I’d love to hear your thoughts on it.
Good luck playing this week!
Some of these instructions are hilarious, some are seriously pretentious. Whatever your take on contemporary art, there’s no denying these activities will push your creativity into a new place.
For those of us who, perhaps, wish to loosen the reins a little.
101 Experiments in the Philosophy of Everyday Life by Roger-Pol Droit
Many of these ‘everyday adventures’ involve an element of play and all of them will have you turning ordinary situations into a philosophical opportunity!
Wired to Create by Scott Barry Kaufman & Carolyn Gregoire
Chapter 1 Imaginative Play & Chapter 3 Daydreaming
A really good book in general, but these chapters are particularly relevant. Read my book review here.
Make Ink by Jason Logan
Handmade Houseplants by Corrie Beth Hogg
These books fit firmly in my low risk play category, but they still excite me to get going. They may not be your cup of tea – what creative activity books are on your wishlist?
I just love this. OK Go’s music videos fill me with so much wonder, and I’m constantly amazed by the skill and ingenuity. Listen to them share how they do it.
Lots of great talks on here to really explore the topic further (and not just within the confines of thinking about creativity).
A little bit of playful eye-candy and a reminder that art doesn’t need to take itself too seriously.
A whole podcast devoted to the idea of play and innovation? How could we not give this a go?