Why it's important to have space to play

At the beginning of this year I made a vow to write here, or in a personal form, at least once a week. It only takes quick glance at my last post, and it's 'January' title to realise that I haven't exactly honoured my new year vow.

It's been an odd start to the year. Plenty of varied freelance work has come in, and that's kept me motivated and interested but I've also had one or two professional disappointments lately which has left me feeling dejected, and worn down. Outside of work there's been a similar juxtaposition. Weekends have been spent enjoying home comforts, down time, and exploring Didsbury. Week nights have been dedicated to problem solving and honouring a commitment, which in hindsight I wasn't ready to make (sorry I'll have to remain vague on that one!).

All this has left me in a funny old headspace, and while in many ways writing is my go to 'sort your head out' tool, in other ways, that too comes with a certain amount of pressure. I just don't enjoy journaling like I used to, and when it comes to blogging writing on the internet I feel guilty for having neglected this space so much over the past 18 months. A guilt which feeds that little voice in my head that viscously whispers 'well if you're going to post, you'd better make it a good one.' Not only that, but I feel like my writing will always be connected to my work (even if I so rarely get paid for it) making it difficult to switch off and just type.

I'm not just telling you this as some long winded excuse for my online absence but to highlight that sometimes our creative outlet isn't always the release you would hope it to be. Especially when that creativity is part of your day job.

So where do you go when you have all this energy and your usual outlet pipe appears blocked? Do you have to put that energy to good use? Keep on making what you're supposed to make? If you're a painter do you have to stare at your canvas until it becomes a masterpiece? Or is it sometimes better to use that energy on just playing? 

Well as you can probably guess from the title of this post, I think 'just' playing is more than ok, I think it's vital to growing, and learning, and being happy, not just as a creator, but as a person.

I don't necessarily mean you need to grab your teddies and host a picnic, or that you should go and knock on your best friends parents door and ask if they can come out and ride bikes with you (although - why not?).  I simply mean giving yourself the space to try something new, do something just for the sake of doing it, and be ok with it not turning out perfectly.

I've seen it hundreds of times in a rehearsal room. Theatre makers, writers, actors and directors, spend so much time focusing on THE SHOW, that at some point in the process everyone gets burnt out, and can't see the light at the end of the tunnel. Maybe there is one scene that just doesn't seem to work, maybe mass doubt sets in and nobody is capable of reassuring one another that what they are doing is actually any good, or maybe it's just a day where everything has gone wrong (also know as the tech rehearsal). Whatever it is that causes it, and however far into the process it is, it happens, and forcing through can sometimes be the very worst thing you can do.

But give that group of people an hour to just improvise, play old school drama games, or get them to read the same script but playing different characters, and magic can happen. The pressure is off and everyone relaxes, things come more naturally, and people begin to see beyond the problem. Sometimes something comes out of this playing that ends up being in the final show, and sometimes nothing at all comes from it, but the end product isn't what is important. What's important is that they went through that process, and felt they had room to breathe.

The same is true for any creative person. We get so caught up on what we should be doing, and how we usually do things, that we forget it's ok to step away and try something new.

So while I haven't been writing I have been creating and playing, and while Instagram probably isn't going to be considered an art form by the big wigs any time soon*, it's given me that all important space to try something new.

In the past couple of months barely a day has gone by where I haven't taken a photo. Maybe I've spent hours setting up my camera, or creating a stop motion, maybe it's been a quick snap and a moment in my day I wanted to capture,  or maybe it's been a whole evening trying out new editing techniques and apps. 

I haven't been doing this to grow my followers, or build a brand, and not every photo has ended up on my grid. I've been doing it, simply because I really enjoy it. I enjoy that photography will never become an income stream for me, I enjoy that taking a bad photo and posting it will never come back to haunt me and I enjoy that I can see myself getting better at something and it's 100% just for myself.

Has this directly fed back into my work and writing? Well not as such  - although it did give me the inspiration for this post - but what it has done, without a shadow of a doubt as kept me happy and functioning and on some kind of steady level when work, writing, theatre, and other commitments, have left me feeling so wrong footed. It's freed up my rain to think about other things. It's let me stop worrying. It's made me happy and calm, and feeling like myself.

And if you're reading this and thinking 'that's all well and good, but I'm not really a creative person' then find some other way to play, do something sporty, play make believe with your neices and nephews, or take your teddy down to the woods. Playing isn't about what or how you're doing something, it's simply about the act of doing it, regardless of whether or not it produces something or whether you're actually any good at it. It's about having the space to fail, and being ok with that.

Here's to hosting the best teddy bears picnic ever x

*I wonder who will be the first person to secure arts council funding for an Instagram project- or has it already been done?

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1 comment

  1. Hey there would you mind stating which blog platform you're working with?
    I'm looking to start my own blog soon but I'm having a hard time
    making a decision between BlogEngine/Wordpress/B2evolution and Drupal.
    The reason I ask is because your layout seems different then most blogs and I'm looking for something unique.

    P.S My apologies for being off-topic but I had to ask!


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