I know artists, I know writers, I know academics. I know some very talented people.
Which makes me wonder why I seem to spend so much of my own time writing voluntary community articles, and playing with paint, but also why I have no desire to be ‘brilliant’. I have no desire to be a great artist, nor, peculiarly, do I really want to write a novel.
Playing is the crucial word. In Psychologies Magazine, March, 2017, I happened upon a short article by Vanessa King, about a book entitled Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination and Invigorates the Soul, by Stuart Brown.
King mentions her growing urge to make something or draw, not to reach an aim or because she has great skill, but just for the simple pleasure of doing it.
That is something many of us have lost. We want to be happy through play but often treat play as work.
Play is something children do. We all know that children can lose themselves in the moment, in a world of make-believe. King writes: “When we play, we feel freedom, power absorption and joy”. Remember that? As we grow older, play is suppressed, so teenagers rarely do it, and adults become responsible and dutiful, so they don’t play any more either. Brown’s book tells us how to re-engage with play. We need to consider:
- What we loved to do as a child
- Where we played and with whom
- How we felt
- Then, think about how that play can translate into adult play
As a child, I loved to read. I would lose myself in the fantasy world of books in my room. I did play with other (usually younger) children (generally, I was bossing them around) but I derived most pleasure from reading, or writing ‘magazines’. There was nothing quite like lying on my bedroom floor, bits of paper everywhere, planning the next edition as if I was a magazine editor. Note the control of the situation, the home base, and the solitary nature of the play.
The joy came from getting something together, planning something which would be absolutely spot on, over which I had absolute jurisdiction. Another imaginary game I enjoyed was owning a department store and thinking what I’d fill it with, for everything had to be purposeful. Working life was never so satisfactory, having to work with the (sometimes half-baked) notions of others. One of my less solitary games was to create cut out dolls and wardrobes of clothes. I gave these to the girls in my primary school class because it made me temporarily popular, for I could do something they could not.
So, my play was pretty basic in terms of equipment. Obviously, we didn’t have the Play Station 3 then, or an iPhone! I once decided to read the dictionary, starting at Aachen. A word a day. Sad? Maybe, but a deep desire to learn from whatever material was available.
I enjoyed ‘teaching’ younger children (what we didn’t know about volcanoes, by the time I’d finished, wasn’t worth knowing) making up rules, and directing activity, but also writing/compiling/disseminating. Actually, that is still pretty much what I really enjoy, for that is when work feels like play.
So, if the adult version is to give in to the play urge and enjoy similar satisfactions, what comes next?