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Why Play Is Essential to Creativity

I recently watched the documentary “Val” on Amazon Prime. Very insightful. I have always like Val Kilmer as an actor, mostly because my childhood friend was obsessed with him and made me watch many movies featuring his face.

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Like many of Val Kilmer’s movies, his documentary recognized him for the star he is. And it was fascinating to watch his journey through his creative career. But the thing that stood out to me the most was something he said about his time in the hospital when he learned he would not talk the same and it may affect his acting career. He explained, “In the hospital I began to paint again the way we did when we were kids.”

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How did we paint or create when we were kids? Without limitations. Without fear of judgement. With possibility and discovery. We created to see what we could do, not to present perfectionism. We were free. We allowed ourselves to play.

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Play Is Beneficial to Children and Adults

In the little time I worked in the education industry, one concept has stayed with me, stamped in my mind. That is the importance of play for children. Play helps children to understand their world and the things they are learning. Play helps them to experiment, to problem solve, and to imagine. In Healthline article, “The Importance of Play: How Kids Learn by Having Fun,” Kimberly Zapata discussed the importance of play and how it benefits children cognitively, physically, socially, and emotionally.

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But what about as adults? Can we still benefit from play?

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“[Play] can be an important source of relaxation and stimulation for adults as well,” touts an article by HelpGuide (The Benefits of Play for Adults). “[…] By giving yourself permission to play with the joyful abandon of childhood, you can reap oodles of health benefits throughout life.” Benefits include relieving stress, improving brain function, stimulating the mind and boosting creativity, improving relationships and connection with others, and feeling young and energetic.

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How Do You Play?

I think as adults it gets harder to play, to find ourselves in that childhood abandon, free of fear of judgement, free to just be and explore. So how do you play?

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Why not do something just for the sake of doing it? Why not pick up a new hobby and try something you’ve wanted to do for a long time?

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Play isn’t just pretend, although you can do that too.

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Sports can be play: Soccer, basketball, running, swimming. Do it for fun, not for professional development. Do it to conned with others. Do it to laugh.

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Art can be play: Painting, drawing, crafting, sculpting. Let yourself experiment and discover what your hands can do, what your imagination can create, without worry of perfection. Let yourself make mistakes, explore, and try new things.

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Music can be play: Singing, playing an instrument, writing songs. Let yourself experiment with sound and words and style. Forget writing or creating the next best hit.

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Get away from your creative passion and try another form of play to free the mind and get the thoughts going in a new direction. Try coloring or puzzling or board games or photography.

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All those creative things we talk about can be play. Yes, have goals. But also allow yourself time to play, to discover, to build your imagination.

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Play Is Essential to Creativity

One of the most important aspects of play, I think, is its ability to free the mind, to relieve of stress. It helps us overcome the monkey mind, the constant go-go-go in the mind, or the never-ending tasks that circle in your head all day. It allows you to focus on the present. And that allows your imagination to grow, for your problems-solving mind to have room to do what it does best. Ideas flow. Creation is in its beautiful infancy.

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Play is essential to creativity. It is essential for growth. It is essential for life.

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