I love creativity.  I’m the person who will stand and stare at a painting for hours, who stops mid-read to appreciate a beautiful sentence, and who cries when I see heartache portrayed through dance.  But creativity doesn’t just come bursting out of an unplanted field.  You need to feed your creativity.   You have to play in order to be creative.

Why is Creativity Important?

Creativity isn’t just in the arts.  It’s in science, it’s in math, it’s in your everyday world.  Think about how many times you’ve come up with a solution to fix anything. I know someone who was playing softball and ripped his pants from crotch to calf.  He didn’t have anything to change into and couldn’t play like that so we tried to find something to fix it.  We found duct tape.  What doesn’t it fix?  He taped up the rip and went on to help us win the game.  That was creativity at work.

A long time ago, I worked for a bank and we changed computer systems.  One of our major accounts was out of balance and we had three days to bring it into balance.  Everyone was working on it but couldn’t figure out what was causing it to be out of balance.  On the third day, I got a picture in my head of the way the account would look if it was balanced.  Once I got that image, I was able to work backward from it and figure out how to balance the account.  That was creativity at work.

But to come up with creative solutions, you have to have fuel, which is where play comes in.

Why Play Is Important

According to Tanner Christensen who is the author of The Creativity Challenge, studies show that playing affects us psychologically allowing us to be able to ask why or what if.  It allows us to explore the unknown.  Being willing to explore the unknown is very important in creativity.  It allows you to put together things that wouldn’t normally go together.  Play also loosens up our inhibitions, puts fear on the backburner, and allows our defenses to relax a bit so that real creativity can take place.  In other words, play puts us in a place where we can take a spoon and a paintbrush and come up with a creative solution…..and not be afraid to come up with it.

I previously wrote about using play to stimulate your creativity in a series called How to Tap Into Your Creativity.  The first post gave a lot of suggestions for play such as getting outside and playing non-competitive games or even doing something that’s the opposite of what your need to do.  For instance, if you’re a writer then try reading or if you’re a scientist, then go to a paint night.  It’s often when we are doing something completely different, that we have our breakthroughs.

The second post in that series was called Use Your Imagination. This time, instead of playing to forget about your creativity or the projects you’re working on, you specifically use your imagination to train it for when you need it.  One suggestion was to look at a spoon and come up with creative ideas to use it.  But don’t stop there, now hand the spoon to a child and ask her to come up with as many ways as possible to use the spoon.  You might be surprised to see how many more ideas she gets and how much more imaginative they are.

Take your cue from a child and don’t be afraid to use your imagination to come up with creative ideas.