As a little girl, I wanted little things. Tiny tea cups and pitchers, a place for the fairies to sit made from empty wooden spools, matchboxes that could be stacked to become dresser drawers. I coveted buttons and bits of dried flowers, small pictures from magazines that I would frame with construction paper frames. With these things I built worlds and populated them with characters only I could see. Similarly, I built altars in the forest of twigs, rocks and leaves, performing ceremonies under a canopy of cloistered green that sheltered me and kept me safe.
Most of us have a story about childhood play, the ease of it, the familiarity with imagination that overtook us and immersed us in our creations. What happens to imagination as we get older? Edicts from neighborhood mothers, “go outside and play,” eventually gave way to “go do your homework,” and finally graduated to the conclusion that we all must work. Creative play is left behind us, unless we become a professional musician, dancer, or an artist of some sort. But even then it’s a difficult task I think to remain faithful to play, because paying the bills so often takes precedence over making art.
I’ve just finished a manuscript, a novel that is now looking for a home. I have no idea about what I want to do next. For the first time in what feels like a long time, I’ve entered that place of imagination and creative play, delighted that it’s so fun. It should always be fun, I tell myself, but it isn’t. Writing is work. It’s a job to sit down every day and add to the pages, to smooth out the rough edges of a story so that a reader will want to keep reading. To toughen one’s skin to the inevitable criticisms and comments about one’s skill, can be arduous. Right now, I need to feel the magic of joyful play. Without a sense of getting lost in one’s own little world, what’s really the point?
What’s next is the universal question that writers and other artists ask once they have completed a work. What’s Next is the liminal space where the conscious and the unconscious have the potential to collide, resulting in creative play. When I give myself to the joy and get lost in the process of making something that I don’t need to sell or market, wisdom and knowing arises in me.
Jungian psychologist, D. Stephenson Bond says that there are four stages of creative play:
1. Brooding: The pacing. The angst. The wondering. The chewing on. Like a hen upon a nest, settling into an inevitable hatching. Brooding is the core of what’s next.
2. Attachment: The spark. The intensity. The flashpoint. The idea that cannot be shaken.
3. Immersion: The getting lost. The surrender. The becoming one with creation and creativity.
4. Satisfaction: The completion. The resolve. The release. Contentment. Not to be confused with achievement, or ownership of the creation.
In the quest for the next, colored pens and pencils eagerly wait on my desk; journals open, accepting writing and drawings that no one will ever see; I tear pictures out of magazines and glue them to the pages, making collage; I create altars in corners of my house, in the crevices of my imagination, places where the muses will come to have tea. Dragon flies, the gatekeepers to the dream world make spirals around my yard. I read. I journal. I get lost. No project. No deadline. Just the making of things and for periods of time throughout the day I remember being a little girl with little things and how much that FILLS MY HEART. The evolution of heart and soul is upon me, and I make things just for the sake of making them.
In this state of creative play and imagination, patterns begin to reveal themselves, clues as to what in me wants to come forward. I’m quiet and coloring outside of the lines, nourishing this child-heart, overflowing with the wisdom and wonder of individual evolution and what it means to be fully human. I cannot thrive without playing, I remind myself.
What is your creative play these days? What are you making, just for the joy of it?