Is there any creative dream you’ve been avoiding? Playing an instrument, learning to dance, writing poetry, painting, designing a quilt…??? Let’s explore what pursuing that idea might bring. Because here’s my point:
Creative “play,” no matter how old you are, or how serious your goals, can recharge you for your true “work.”
Read on to grasp the value of play!
Last November, I did a crazy thing for someone who has some serious writing deadlines to meet. I signed up for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and finished a children’s book in just 30 days. 50,000 words (well, 51,723 to be exact, but who’s counting?)
Why? Because I always thought I’d write fiction. I’ve been writing books for 20 years and they’ve all been nonfiction. It was time! Besides, I needed a break to recharge my creativity. And I thought it might make writing more fun again. And my adult nephew told me he’d finished a NaNoWriMo challenge a couple years ago and to go for it!
So I gave up my morning reading time for the month (a sacrifice but…) and tackled a fantasy story I’d outlined back before Harry Potter went viral. I also set a couple of rules.
- No planning, beyond the incomplete outline I had. I wrote the first thing that came into my head, just followed where the idea went.
- No editing. Whatever happened, happened. My challenge was to write my way out of dumb plotting, stupid descriptions, weak character introductions, and boring sequences.
When did you last do something where you were your only audience? And when did you give yourself permission to be a bit wacky? And, when did you truly set out to turn mistakes into possibilities?
What was the result, you ask?
A 51,273-word book called Lost and Found that would need a ton of editing before it ever saw the light of day, and probably doesn’t merit the effort editing would take. But here’s the real deal:
This outflow of almost effortless creativity, that let me play with what I can do, recharged me as a writer. And creative play is a powerful learning experience, no matter how old we are!
I did it! And, I learned
- My strengths. My dialogue is smooth. I can build a pretty good imaginary society. I can make up great little legends and parables and other stories.
- My future needs. If I were to tackle one of the other fiction outlines on my computer, I would need to detail the plot before beginning (not all writers do). I desperately need practice with characterization and scene-setting.
- My energizers. That free-flow, just-see-what-happens was amazing. My brain can come up with some entertaining, if not audience-worthy, stuff! And don’t I the writer deserve to be entertained along the way?
- My better processes. While the above rules worked for NaNoWriMo, if I tackle another novel I’ll write a section one day, then revisit and revise that piece the next day. Never revising served its purpose for this particular challenge, but for example, I made a major plotting mistake. The story involves four children having a society-saving adventure, and I accidentally had their fathers show up too soon. End of adventure. And I still had 8,000 words to write. I almost backed up to edit but…hey I made it work and some of the parts I’m most proud of are in those last 8,000 words simply because I had to work so hard to keep it going!
So why should you care? I challenge you to find something you’ve been wanting to do but haven’t made time for. Set a couple rules to keep it fun. And see what you learn from this kind of creative play with something you’ve been dreaming about!