The Importance of Play


It’s no mystery that I have been feeling the weight of writer’s block lately. The pressure of writing a thesis combined with the stress of financial burdens, the worry of “what comes next,” and the angst of continuous transition has been offering up more headaches and sleepless nights than words on the page. Sometimes we become so mired in the muck that we don’t know how to shift our energy from dismal and depressed to motivated and hopeful.

Today, I decided a change of scenery was in order. I thought a journey to the university library would provide the container and structure I have been looking for. This is a place where books collect in such numbers that it would appear writing is an ordinary thing – as common as toothpaste on a grocery store shelf. This is a place where people are quiet and concentrated, each person steeped in their own research and writing. For the most part these people look calm and serene, a welcome change from what I imagine is my own stressed and furrowed form.

I settled into my favorite corner of the library with my tea and laptop, lovingly referred to as Maude, to begin writing those chaplaincy application essays. I updated my Facebook status to “Hoping a change of scenery will help with productivity” and within the hour one friend responded, “You’re trying too hard! Go play! Enjoy the sunshine!” I looked out the window and could hardly believe the blue sky and sunshine. This was the first time all day I had noticed the weather and it was 2:30 in the afternoon. She was absolutely right! I needed to relax. I needed to stop forcing words up out of this doom and gloom mind of mine. I needed to create a shift in energy.

But, how?

Once upon a time I was a wildly imaginative young girl. I danced through sprinklers, wore ribbons in my hair, and cartwheeled across the lawn. It was this playful spirit that led me to writing in the first place. I could create new worlds, new people, new events with words. Before I could write stories I was telling them. Today I have three young nephews who tell stories, each with his own unique style. The oldest, who is nine, tells stories he has read in books. He wants his hearers to know details of dragons and sword fights. The middle child, who is seven, is much more literal in his stories. He keeps to the details of his everyday adventures and always remembers to tell the good parts of the story. The youngest, who is four, tells stories of tremendous imagination and excitement. Most recently he told me about a boat that disappeared under a waterfall and turned into a house. The people inside the house ate fish as they floated past the windows.

Somewhere in all this academic achievement and career planning I have forgotten about fish that float past windows. I have forgotten about imagination, creativity, and the simple joy of telling stories. I have forgotten about the importance of play. It is play that stirs up the imagination, frees us from our stress and worry, allows our energy to shift from worn-out and exhausted to relaxed and happy. It has the power to provide momentum back into the joy of writing.

Here are some ideas for play:

Swing – find a park and swing high and fast until you start laughing because your stomach is somewhere else.

Dance – turn on some music and move. Be silly, have fun. No one is watching.

Splash – In the Pacific Northwest there is no shortage of puddles. Find some and jump in them. Put on your favorite rain boots and practice the art of puddle-jumping.

Sing – Forget that the neighbors might hear you, turn your favorite music up LOUD and sing. Hint: this can also be done while dancing.

Skip Rocks – Go for a walk (or a skip or a run) and look for those nice round, flat stones. Grab some friends and turn it into a scavenger hunt . . . who can find the flattest and fastest stones? Then, get yourself down to some water and have a skipping contest.

These are only a few ideas to help us get unstuck. It happens when we write. Sometimes our minds resist the words for any number of reasons. How do you get unstuck? How do you play? Make your own list. Add to mine. Let’s shift our momentum with joyous hearts and play and write and play and write and play!



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