Creative Writing,  Creativity

Using Play in the Writing Process and in Life

1994 in my dorm room

It’s my first year of undergrad.

I’m resisting writing a paper for Psychology 101, easily distracted by the warmth of spring, craving to get outside to feel the sun on my face. The last thing I want to do is sit in my dorm room and write about psychology. When I run out of diet soda and chocolate and friends who will support me in avoiding my paper, I close the door, sit in my chair, and stare at my computer screen.

Nothing.

I go to the closet, putting on my most electric outfit: an orange striped hat, red plaid pants, a royal blue long-sleeved t-shirt. My hips swish side to side to imaginary music before I sit down at the desk with a flourish (and sound effects, like crowds cheering and hoots and whistles.) I rest my fingers on the keys and type the dreaded (now nearly late) essay, with an accent—playful, professorial, and a little bit pretentious. Imaginary sound effects continue to punctuate the experience as I write. Drama students know how to get things done.

To complete the writing, to make the writing bearable, to create something, I played. Play shifted my thinking about the process and the work. I changed my thoughts about process to change my writing.

Once the words are on the page, I can shape them into something better; but without words on the page, I have nothing to work with but air. Writing processes can be as unique as fingerprints.

And it goes beyond what writers can do to what anyone can do. “Fake it till you make it” works, but “play it till you make it” works even better. Even now when I’m faced with something challenging I look for ways to play, entering into the process in a fun way. Every time I do it always works out.

At work when faced with a difficult situation one of our go to responses is to call for “back-up.” Our staff works as an amazing team. We know that when we collaboratively work through a complex issue we get better results.

Last year after seeing the Northumberland Players production of “Joseph and the Technicolour Dreamcoat,” I started thinking of back-up dancers every time we called to each other for support. Imagine a whole kick line and jazz hands coming at you down the hall, singing and smiling! The wisdom of Broadway as a resiliency strategy. The musical theatre genre is all about happy endings and togetherness. When we can imagine ourselves and our coworkers as back-up dancers during a time of stress, well then anything is possible, isn’t it?

“On the Rooftop” VOS Theatre. 2013. In our tuxedos for our “One” kickline. If we looked like this at work, maybe we would sing and dance more!
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