The Creative Life: (Re)Learning How to Play

Today’s post comes courtesy of Cali Harris. Cali is an amazing young woman and I couldn’t be happier to be able to call her a good friend. She is insightful and eternally optimistic, not to mention a heck of a salsa dancer (or so I hear). Enjoy the post below, and be sure to say hello to Cali on Twitter today!

In the amorphous social category that is “Gen Y,” there is a lot of talk around combining work and personal interests, or turning a hobby into a stream of income, or–dare I echo the mantra of GenYers–“following your passion.” And though I am poking fun (just a little) at what seems to me to be an echo chamber of self-affirmations, I know there are people who have created a life-work that is important to them and that is important in their field.


As I continue to meet people who have been able to figure out this desirable blending of work and passion, I find several common personality traits. The one that really jumps out at me is creativity.

We’re all creators. We may write lines of code, or design logos, or cultivate business relationships. We might create community or processes to manage projects. That we all create something means that we most likely run into creativity ruts. While there are tons of tips, tricks and hacks on how to get your creativity groove back, my latest go-to hack has been playing.

(Re)Learning How to Play

We all played when we were young. I know that in my adult life, in so many ways I’ve stopped playing–I don’t have a playful attitude nearly enough. I’m not sure what inspired it, but recently I’ve made an effort to (literally) play more. I’ve visited parks to swing or play frisbee or go down a slide. I have five nephews under the age of six, so I’ve also spent a lot of time building rocket ships with Legos or zooming around Micro Machines or building blanket forts.

This playtime has certainly helped me to relax and to feel a little freer. But I’ve also made a conscious effort to (re)learn how to play in the more serious parts of my life, like in work and grad school. I have remixed and reinvigorated my creativity in a few playful ways. I bought a stockload of crayons, colored pencils and butcher paper so I could color and brainstorm. I scribble on chalk- and whiteboards any chance I get. I make mind maps and doodle when I have a new idea. Occasionally I steal my nephews’ Legos and attempt to build a concept using only those rectangular interlocking blocks. Sometimes I force myself to draw pictures when I have writer’s block.

Basically, I try to recreate that same feeling of freedom I feel when swinging on a tire swing at the park when I’m trying to tackle more “serious” projects. It lets the creator in me be more creative. While there are, of course, certain aspects of our life-work that aren’t playgrounds (hm…legal and financial issues come to mind), I believe that as creators we have limitless opportunities to play.

Have you played lately? Are there any playful things you do to lead a more creative life?

(Image c/o Sir Fish)