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Blank computer screen in front of me, a canvas waiting for the whoosh of ideas in my brain to come together and flow into my fingers, forming words that I tap-tap-tap on the keyboard. Something from nothing. Project complete.
As a writer this is my creative process. On my best days, the ideas are many, and come freely. I type away, unimpeded, joyful, and productive. Of course, there are those days when my brain feels like a vacuum. The words get stuck, and the computer screen feels more like a vortex than a blank canvas. It's on those days that I reach for play—quick hits of fun that are like caffeine for my creativity.
While I have always considered myself playful – my love of pop music is a forever kind of love and well-timed jokes are my superpower– I didn’t realize how important play was to my creativity until I started coaching kids.
Have you ever noticed how proficient children are at playing? They can play anywhere, with anyone, anytime. It’s beautiful to watch, and quite frankly, soul-energizing. On the weekends, I observe my daughter, surrounded by a motley crew of dolls and stuffies. She’ll spend hours with them, giving them new names, finding creative ways to style their hair, and “directing” them in plays she’s penned herself! With a few simple items and her imagination, play whisks her away and multiplies her ideas tenfold.
I noticed a similar effect with the children I coach each week. During the class, they spend time in free play mode. I give them each a hula hoop and a rubber kick ball and no direction simply, “Make up a game and have fun!” They do just that—playing, moving, laughing, and creating.
“Adulting” is a full-time job, and a serious one at that. Yet, I’ve found that infusing play into my day makes me more creative and productive—and provides just the refreshing break I need.
Here are five ways I bring a little play to my day and power up my creativity in the process.
If my mind and mood are lagging, I’ll stand up and do a series of quick-hit movements. My favorites are jumping jacks, burpees, and squats. I do between 15 and 20 reps to invigorate my thoughts. Plank holds are also perfect. These bursts, often called “exercise snacking,” are normally between 10 and 30 minutes. However, my 30-second abbreviations are just the jolt I need to foster creativity in the moment.
For me, music is a natural mood booster and thought starter. If there’s a dip in my creative flow, I’ll scroll to my favorite playlist, plug in my earbuds, place my hands on the keyboard and wait for the magic to happen. Shoulders shimmy, hips sway, and words come a bit more easily. I call these “Above the Keyboard Dance Parties,” though they can happen anywhere—no need to keep them at the keyboard! Feel free to get up and dance around the room to get your creative energy going. The more spontaneous, the better. My daughter and I have car ride dance parties to start our day off in a positive, energized way. (We’re entirely safe with our moves, of course!)
I also take breaks throughout the day to play in nature. Though this type of play is often much less active. Ayurveda encourages time spent in nature every day to heal. That healing applies to the creative process as well. I’ll grab a pen and journal, step onto my lanai, and watch birds and butterflies mingle, as palm leaves bristle in the breeze. Nature nurtures and inspires. I close my eyes, relax for a few minutes, and let the ideas come.
Or I grab my dog and take a walk or a quick playful run, totally disconnected from technology, noticing details that I may miss day-to-day. I’ll watch her sniff around, and just enjoy her enjoying nature. Normally, when I head back inside, I’ll feel refreshed and have a new idea or solution or two.
One might argue that there is nothing playful or creative about scheduling time. But when that scheduled time is daydream time, all bets are off. In fact, daydreaming (or “doing nothing”) is a trending topic that researchers say cultivates creativity. Feels contrary to the way the world works, right? You do more, it compounds, and you ultimately produce more. Not necessarily. When you give your brain time and space to play, it can wander off into innovative new territory. Outside-the-box creativity flourishes in the space between. No matter how minimal, any time is worth putting on the calendar to daydream. I either schedule 5-10 minutes a day for daydreaming, or I daydream during exercise. Movement is a conduit for daydreaming.
Well, not literally. But I need to laugh to create. If that sounds funny (pun intended), it is. Nonsensical memes, videos of dogs wearing sunglasses and glamorous outfits, giggle baby reels on repeat–give me all of it and then some!
Throughout the day, if I haven’t laughed, I notice. It negatively impacts my creativity. The buoyancy of a great, belly-busting chuckle lifts and spreads, fueling whatever project I am working on. Laughter truly is contagious and creativity-enhancing. If I haven’t had my daily dose of laughter, I’ll make it! For example, I’ll text a random goofy emoji to a friend or family member and wait for their response. It’s a bit of a game (more play!) and helps ideas flow. It's no wonder that Ayurveda points to humor to nourish your mind, body, and soul. Look here for more opportunities to LOL.
Access your creative spirit and embrace your playful nature in Cultivate Creativity, a six-part collection with Devi Brown and Jasmine Hemsley, available now in the Chopra App.