Creativity and Productivity

The value of play

I’ve been trying another technique Roseanne Bane recommends in “Around the Writer’s Block” — something she calls Process and I call playtime.

Japanese print

It’s about doing something fun that puts you in the creative flow. Her argument is that by engaging in creative play for play’s sake, you increase your ability to draw on your creative power when you sit down to write.

It’s another aspect of brain science. The left hemisphere of the brain — the analytical and detail-oriented side — compares and judges everything. It values efficiency and getting things done. For the left brain, time is measurable and sequential.

For the right hemisphere, time is fluid or even unimportant. It lives in the present moment and processes information slowly. Playtime is right brain activity. It’s about forgetting boundaries and time constraints. And it’s about opening yourself up to possibilities that the left brain can then whip into shape.

Bane’s list of suggestions for playtime includes many activities I already engage in, which further piqued my interest:

  • Journaling
  • Coloring
  • Sketching and/or painting
  • Playing with clay
  • Taking photos
  • Knitting

Bane advises doing 15 to 30 minutes of playtime a day, five to six days a week, and before you even get started, she warns you to be prepared to ignore your left brain’s protests that you’re wasting valuable time. She recommends scheduling playtime first thing in the morning. Because my writing sessions are typically in the morning and because I am slow to get focused anyway, I decided to start with 10 to 15 minutes of playtime.

I was skeptical at first, but now I am a believer.

I bought a book of Japanese prints at the craft store and pulled out my colored pencils. The first time I tried it, I lost myself in the pleasure of painting with color. The time flew by and I was disappointed when my trusty timer went off. All that chatter in my head about chores and deadlines that would have been so distracting if I was trying to write just fell away. And when I sat down at my desk to write, I felt looser.

Now I look forward to playtime and try to do it at the beginning of all my writing sessions. It clears my head and redirects my brain. It calms me, and I am more productive afterward.

Give playtime a try. Keep it fun and light, and as with all things writing related, start with small commitments you can honor. And let me know which playtime activity works for you.

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