serious about play

Toy monkey

Don’t you love watching little kids play? They are spontaneous, experimental, and usually very serious. Playing isn’t just a game to them.

I want to get more serious about playing. Make mistakes. Laugh. Try again. This is how we learn. It can be tremendous fun, it can help us learn, and the earnestness we bring to our creating can be a kind of reverence.

As someone who creates, I sometimes struggle with balance. I can take myself too seriously, or not seriously enough. Then there are those wonderful times when things flow, and those are the best moments.

I’ve been working on a photography project for some time, which I hope to share here when it’s further along. In many ways, the playful part is baked in: the subject matter has serious elements, but it’s about childhood, and working on it brings up many odd and funny memories. The part that has me uncomfortably serious is more technical and has had me stuck for a bit. So, in the spirit of curious inquiry and play, I wrote a letter to my project. In part, it says:

I want to say that you are magical, you mean something to me. You make me smile, inside and out. You inspire me; you bring me joy. You will be amazing. You will be special.

That felt good, but something was missing. I wondered what would happen if my project spoke to me. Here’s what she had to say:

I love you. You just have to show up. And do the work, of course, but I will help you. I am not going to be exactly what you imagined, and I know that’s hard for you. But even if I’m part of what you imagined, that’s fine. More than fine. What if I’m some of what you envisioned and what if I’m also something else you didn’t expect? That’s where the magic is. Remember when J was born? How she seemed so new and at the same time, how you couldn’t imagine her being any other way? That’s where the magic is. I won’t be as wonderful as your child, but I am your creation, and I will be both strange and familiar. I need you. You need me, but I need you more. You are going to bring something brand new into the world, and you are the only one who can do this. The world is waiting for your work.

I’m sharing this because I have yet to meet a creator (and really, that’s all of us, even if we haven’t started yet) who isn’t at least occasionally filled with doubts and a little shy about their work. Maybe a little serious play, or playful seriousness is what’s called for.

If you do receive any letters from your creative endeavors, or if you have some moments of play, I’d love to hear about them.

4 thoughts on “serious about play”

  1. Susan, This is so beautiful and imaginative! And, so right on!! I can’t wait to see your finished project; I know it will be stunning. As I’ve been doing my projects, I find myself in wonder and maybe even a smidgen of joy @ what I’ve produced, and it almost does talk to me! I wonder @ what it is that the creative thing does for us, while knowing it’s doing something very good.

    “Magic” is the word!!

    With Love & Admiration,

    1. Aw, Lyn, thank you! I love that you’re feeling joy and wonder while creating. I also like the mystery of not knowing exactly what will come out, and as you say, what our creativity is doing for us. Magic! xo

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