Posted by: Gwendolyn Huber | February 12, 2013

The Playful Writer

“The debt we owe to the play of imagination is incalculable.”  – CG Jung

Play is our brain’s favorite way of learning.  – Dianne Ackerman

…play produces feelings of pleasure which help you escape from two major creativity killers – stress and self-consciousness.  – Jordan Ayan

Lately I’ve been seeing with increasing clarity that although play is essential for children, it’s equally important for adults, especially for those of us who create for a living. Yes, it’s only half the equation, but just as important as the part of the process we seem to dwell on the most – the hard work.

There are some words and phrases I associate with play: explore, off the cuff, listen, observe, experiment, flexible, personal best, personal challenge. To do something without worrying about whether it’s good enough.

As writers we play games to trick and tease ourselves, to goad ourselves into accomplishing our goals…. One M&M for every fifty words. Ten dollars in the vacation kitty every time I make my word count for the day.

We take breaks to do things that are not task oriented – take a walk or a shower for instance, because it gives us time to swirl information around inside our heads and rearrange it into new formations.

Games you play against yourself or with a friend can generate ideas while taking the pressure off. For instance, some of my cohorts here at Author Chronicles have had their characters write emails to each other in real time, and in chatting together these characters have become fleshed out into multi-dimensional people. Other ideas might be to play Literati when stuck for a word or practice creating plot lines with role-playing games.

I write here today though, not so much to give you ideas, but to ask you for your ideas. How do you make writing fun? What games do you play to increase your writing skills? What constitutes play for you?

The master of the art of living makes little distinction between his work and his play, his labor and his leisure, his mind and his body, his education and his recreation, his love and his religion. He hardly knows which is which; he simply pursues his vision of excellence in whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing. To him he is always doing both. – Buddha

Anything on earth you want to do is play. Anything on earth you have to do is work. Play will never kill you, work will. I have never worked a day in my life.
Dr. Leila Denmark (100+, America’s oldest practicing physician) 

Play is the highest form of research.  Albert Einstein

You’ve got to keep the child alive; you can’t create without it. Joni Mitchell


  1. My idea of play has changed over the years. It used to be getting out of my usual environment and simply observing people. Airports, malls, coffee shops, they’re all great for catching a character’s unique voice.

    But since I’ve sold, and am under deadline, my idea of fun is being able to relax and play around on that idea I had that doesn’t fit a market or line — just because I love the idea.

    Maybe someday I’ll actually get to sit down and write it!


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