Writing Tip 11: The Importance of Play

BY MIKE JOHNSON

My point today is simple. Without play, there is no creativity. No matter how dogged and sincere you are, without play nothing will happen. Dull words will be recirculated, like the stale air in modern office buildings.

Consider this paragraph from a book called, ‘How the Leapard Changed its Spots,’ By Brian Goodwin, a book that argues for the creative aspect of evolution:

The good news is that fun is good for you. You have to be prepared to write badly in order to write well. To do that you need surrender notions of what is good and bad in your writing to the superior pleasures of play. Play is neither good nor bad; it is merely fun. Nothing rides on it; it carries no cans. It invites no judgements. It doesn’t seek praise or blame

Only out of play can those unexpected connections occur, those moments of magic so dear to both writer and reader.

Intuition is a tricky little beast to define, and deal with. And the Trickster is always there to lead you up the garden path. But being led up the garden path is what play is all about, following will-o-wisps of thought and feeling through remembered landscapes and territories of the blood known only by their smell. Following such improbabilities and impossibilities with no burden put on the result, stepping lightly even when the mood or import of the work may not be light at all. Write fast, and don’t impale yourself with heavy judgements at the end of every sentence. Write first, ask questions afterwards.

Enjoy, have fun, spread some shit on the walls. Thread yourself in and out of that permeable barrier between the conscious and the unconscious mind, fearlessly and with zest, like a child playing. Ah yes, there be dragons, so beware, but there are also pinks dawns (like the one I’m looking at now) and paper moons, and the face of your god may be scrawled in the sky with a child’s crayon.

— A paragraph from Goodwin