Words and Photography by Sarah Anne Navarrete // Mural by Roy McMakin
I've been thinking a lot about play...
As in movement, choreographic, writing or any creative play for that matter? Particularly the place prior to developing a concept. The, “I have no idea what the fuck I'm doing right now but basking in uncertainty feels right”, phase. Where an idea has yet to be determined, thoughts and concepts are dismantled, and there is little to zero cohesion. A place where you simply ask, "what if?”. And you really do it. You really commit to practicing and playing amidst all the unknown.
My question is: have we forgotten this place? Have we forgotten to play? Are we too busy, too bored, or worse, too scared to creatively play? Have we become immediate gratification junkies determined to bypass play and manufacture easy content neither original nor curious or human. If we cared to create at all. When did getting gratification from our peers hold more precedence than simply playing with an idea that we're genuinely jonesing for?
Bob McKim, a creativity researcher in the 60's and 70's who also led the Stanford Design Program, used to do an exercise with his students where he asked them to draw the person next to them, their neighbor, very quickly, giving them 30 seconds.
The results were always the same with adults. When he asked them to reveal their work to their subjects, they almost always responded to each other with, "I'm sorry." Every student was embarrassed to show their work to their peers and it is this very fear that causes us to be conservative in our thinking and creativity.
Let's say you try this same exercise with kids. They typically have no embarrassment at all, they're kids, ego hasn't landed on their door step yet, so they just proudly show their work to whoever wants to look at it. As adults, and as we increasingly become more sensitive to the opinions of others, we've forgotten to exercise the freedom to OPENLY play.
What's more is if we don't subject ourselves to play, free from the filters of judgment from our peers, we lose out on learning.
Two contemporary dance artists I admire, shared with me what they've experienced and what they felt they had learned during creative play.
"I like to change it up every time because I don’t want to get stuck in my habits. That and I want to experience it in DIVERSE ways."
"COLLABORATION changes everything, even if I have an initial idea I’m really inspired by and let's say I plan to play with that, If I bring someone into the idea - letting them influence that idea. I really value that."
"There is something really nice about SPONTANEITY in play. If there is less pressure you end up producing interesting work. Why? Because you have minimal expectation."
"I ADAPTED my process through play and landed on coherent work. It became a hybrid; my usual approach coupled with a deeper sense of awareness"
"ENDURANCE is so important for the reveal."
are all a byproduct of play.
So this goes without saying: I want you to get out there and play. Play is not just important for creativity, it's necessary.
And I'm not just speaking to artists. Your life and all that exists in it is based on what you:
Play is essential for human potential. By removing the constraints of our everyday world, play allows us to more openly explore possibility. And it's more than just an escape from reality, play offers a window of diversity into our perspective.