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The importance of play in creative writing

The other day, as I was working, I saw my puppy, Bruno—a derpy Aussiedoodle—playing with something. (Probably one of the billion applesauce packet caps that find themselves trapped under my couch, who am I kidding?) He chomped it then tossed it up in the air. Chased after it and then pounced on it, only to repeat the pattern. Chomp, toss, pounce. Chomp, toss, pounce.

Admittedly I am a sucker for cute puppy behavior, but this got me thinking about how so many of us adults forget the unadulterated joy of play. Including (and maybe especially) writers.

I know so many writers (myself included) who fall into this trap of goal-setting and sticking to craft rules and plotting and character arcs and story, that they forget about what compels most of us to sit down and write in the first place: to have fun.

To escape our less than perfect world. To touch the divine. To create something of purpose and meaning.

To play.

To create is to play, and sometimes we fail to do just that.

What if instead of worrying about word counts and self-inflicted deadlines and balancing all the things we let go of the stress of writing, and get back to just having fun? Playing with words and scenes and characters.

Not sure how to do that? Here are a couple of ideas:

  1. Take out a blank sheet of paper and write a poem about something you love. It could be someone or something as simple as the fragrance of the daphne bush outside your door. Make it a haiku or something free form.

  2. Find a picture in a magazine or on Pinterest of an inspiring place and write about the person who lives there.

  3. Go to a coffee shop and pick a stranger that might have an interesting backstory. Give them a story about how they came to that coffee shop that day.

  4. Write about the funniest thing you’ve ever witnessed.

  5. Write a scene in which two polar-opposite people first meet.

These may never make it into your WIP. But you might find that playing with something new—gnashing a new idea or scene—could lead to something exciting, and most importantly, fun.

Because if you aren’t having fun, if you aren’t enjoying what you are writing, how can you expect people to enjoy reading it? Joy and fun and play will light you up and light up your work.

Too often, if writing feels like a slog (which happens to everyone!), it can lead to lackluster writing.

So be like Bruno. Chomp on a something—a new scene or character backstory—just to see how it feels. Toss it up in the air, see how it lands. Pounce on it and do it all over.

Let play invigorate your writing.

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