• Sara Nordling

It's Play Time!



One often mentioned way to break a creative block is with play. I will be the first to admit that I don’t do enough of this one. And I don’t necessarily mean being on the local softball time (although it could mean that). I am talking about free, creative, play and/or making that is unrelated to your regular work, or making. This is doing something just for the fun of it with no thought of how it informs you or what the results are.


Why don’t I play more? My instinct is to say, “I’ve no time! I am much to busy with all the things I have to do in a day!” But there is also the long-standing work ethic in me that says that play is something you can do when all the work is done. We all know though, that the work is never done!


So, how do we break out of the work-first rut? How do we play more? And, how do I begin if I haven’t played with anything for years? What does play look like?


First of all, start small. Give yourself a half hour a week. You can build up to an hour a week or even a day or two a month. Schedule it in. It doesn’t have to be the same half hour each week, although that may help you remember to do it. If something comes up where you miss a week, well, move on or do double next week.


Next, what is play? This one is tougher to answer because it varies person to person. But here are some play suggestions:

· For a visual artist, take up a musical instrument; for a musician, take up a visual art. In other words, do something entirely different and new.

· Go exploring on your own in a new neighborhood or shop. Try out an ethnic grocery and buy something you’ve never eaten before, then eat it. Take a walk in a park you’ve never been to. See something new and different.

· Pick up some art or craft supplies that are unrelated to your usual making and give yourself the freedom to create with them, you can even throw out the directions to a boxed craft!

· Find some children and spend some time playing dress up with old clothes, making puppets, building a fort, or invent a new game. You can do this with your own children, grandchildren, or other children you know. The point is to not have an agenda (or a very loose one) and just see where the fun takes you.

· Gather some nature items on a walk and when you come home make something out of them. It may be that what you make is only temporary. That is just fine. It’s about the process.

· Taking up some of your mending but doing it in a way that makes it more art than refined, invisible mends.

· Write a poem.


Play is not:

· Reading a book.

· Watching television.

· Surfing the internet.



One thing I did for play at the beginning of the pandemic was to look through my box of beads and things and make earrings. It was something that I could do quickly at the end of a hard day of teaching on line. I already had some supplies at home and could buy more earring wires on line. And it was nothing that I usually make or do. It really helped me feel calmer, less worn out, and put my mind in a different (fun and creative) space.


I hope this helps you some. Let me know what you like to do for play. Sharing the ideas may be just the spark someone else needs to begin to play.



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