Tag Archives | play

The Radical Act of Play

Wonderbook-coverI'm reading two books about writing at the moment, and together they are making my head explode. In a good way.  It's exploding with ideas.

The first one is called Wonderbook, and it is by Jeff Vandermeer.  I'm only at the very beginning of this baby, having just gotten hold of it last week.  This book is like no other writing book you've ever seen, I guarantee it.  Wonderbook is a lavishly illustrated feast of information, essays, and tips for the writer in all stages of writing a novel.   Just go check out the site to see what I mean. It's an amazing book in conception and finished product.

In the opening section, on inspiration, Vandermeer writes about play and how we sometimes (more like often) sneer at it, as if it is beneath us, as if play, at its heart, is not the very essence of creativity.  To wit:

"Modern ideals of functionality and the trend toward seamless design in our technology have taken the very human striving for perfection and given us the illusion of having attained it (which, ironically, seems very dehumanizing).  In this environment, some writers second-guess their instincts and devalue the sense of play that infuses creative endeavors: "This antique Tiffany lamp must provide light right now, even before I screw in the lightbulb and plug it in, or it's worthless."

Vandermeer goes on to point out that the idea of play thus becomes "immature and frivolous" and we come to think that "all creative processes should be efficient, timely, linear, organized and easily summarized."

I think this also has to do with our emphasis on time, or more to the point, the lack thereof. Taking time to play and be creative seems like at time-waster when it doesn't immediately produce a finished piece.  This attitude can lead to a reluctance to use prompts or writing exercises, or to do anything that isn't directly related to our WIP.

Which leads me to the second book I'm reading, The Creative Compass: Writing Your Way From Inspiration to Publication, by Dan Millman and Sierra Prasada.  (Please note, the publisher, New World Library, graciously provided me with a copy of the book for review. I'll be sharing more about it in a future post.)  The authors delineate five stages that the writer goes through Dream, Draft, Develop, Refine, Share.  Right now I'm reading about the first stage, Dream, in which, "a sticky idea calls you on a quest, and you set out to slay your own dragons."
Creative-compass

The authors talk about starting a conversation with yourself, and then take it further to a technique they call Dreaming in Dialogue.  (Which I'm not sure is the best name, because whenever I see the word dialogue in a writing book I presume it's talking about the act of writing about conversation between characters.)  But, I love, love, love the technique itself and I think it is a fun writing exercise–worthy of taking time to play with.

The idea is to initiate a conversation with your alter ego, as they call it.  So, on the page, you actually have a back and forth about your plot (or whatever).  So (I made all the following up):

Writer: And then the angel landed right in front of her and she got scared so she ran away.

Alter Ego: Why did she get scared?

Writer: Because angels are scary, with their big wings and the whooshing noise they make as they fly.

Alter Ego: They make a whooshing noise as they fly?

Writer: Yes, and they also sing loudly.

I can see how this technique would be useful in furthering a writer's knowledge of the story he's trying to get on paper.  To use it a slightly different way, the authors mention that Harold Robbins, he of the glorious potboiler novels, started each day out with a conversation with his typewriter, who spoke to him as a female.  So you can use this technique with yourself, an imaginary person, or an inanimate object.

I know exactly who I'm going to try it out with: a character who resides within in named Passionate Creator.  She's the one responsible for all the writing I churn out.  She lolls about on a tufted chaise lounge, eating chocolate and sipping wine, and writes and writes and writes.  She can't be bothered with anything having to do beyond actually getting words on the page (that would be the job of Layla, Business Lady, who Passionate Creator ordered from a catalog).  But man, oh man, is she good at getting the writing done!  So we're going to have us a conversation about where the novel is going, she and I.

(I wrote about play a little bit a couple years ago, in this post. )

What books have inspired you lately?  What playful techniques have you used to engage your creativity?

 

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Writing=Creativity=Play (A Post That Might Make You Nervous)

Dream_feather_blue_266249_l At the fall orientation for the Loft, author Debra Moffitt (Awake in the World) did the keynote speech, which was really a workshop, and a presentation the following day.

She began with a meditation designed to take us into our “secret garden,” the place of sanctuary for our spirit and creativity.  And after we had visited, she passed out boxes of crayons and had us draw one aspect of our garden and share it with another person.

I liked the whole secret garden thing.  Mine was actually in a glorious cathedral with beautiful stained glass windows and just as we finished up the meditation, a man swathed in a royal robe with an amazing velvet hat of many colors glided up to me.  Alas, I didn’t get to hear what he had to say, as the meditation was over.

Debra also talked about the value of using dreams, and gave us a few clues on how to remember them:

  • Keep a pad of paper and pen by your bed
  • Write about the dream as soon as you wake up
  • Write in the present
  • Give the dream a title
  • You can ask a question and put it under your pillow to induce an answer

The whole idea of accessing my dream life fascinates me, and I’m terrible at it.  I rarely write down my dreams and, no big surprise, also rarely remember them.  Do you?

And now for the part that will make you nervous: Debra talked a lot about the value of play.  It can activate our right brains and heighten our creativity.  Hence, the crayons.  And yet play makes us nervous.  So nervous it has become nearly a radical activity in our society.   We’re obsessed with work.  And control.  And getting things done.  And sticking to a schedule.  Who has time for play?

I have to admit, I have a hard time with it.  I’ll do “playful” activities but they generally have a purpose: knitting, which makes useful things, hiking, which is exercise, gardening, which makes a pretty yard.  I like to paint, and yet I rarely do it.  Too close to play, I suppose.

It was interesting to watch the reactions of some of the workshop participants.  They were uncomfortable with the idea and in some cases, outright resistant to it.  I get it.  I felt somewhat the same way.  And yet there’s value in the idea of play.

What about you?  Does working with your dreams or engaging in play appeal to you?  And here’s a deeper question: would you do it just for sake of it, without knowing it would help your creativity?

*Don’t forget to capture your dream of writing a book by signing up for my free Ebook, Jump Start Your Book With a Vision Board.  You’ll also receive a subscription to my biweekly newsletter, The Abundant Writer.  The form is to the right of this post.

Image of dreamcatcher by aschaeffer.http://www.everystockphoto.com/photographer.php?photographer_id=46425

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