Have you watched kids at play recently?
Image courtesy of .dianna. on Flickr Creative Commons
I’m talking pure, imaginative play, where they aren’t necessarily trying to make anything, produce anything, or win anything. They’re just fooling around—mentally trying on different characters, scenarios, and abilities.
They’re making up stories.
Pure play is characterized by a lack of judgment or pressure, and because of that, it frees the imagination. The inner critic doesn’t get much sway here. You don’t often hear kids in the midst of make-believe saying, “That dialog sucks!” or “What a lousy idea!” They might argue over who gets to be the princess or whether that cardboard box is a racecar or a baby carriage, but they don’t usually argue over the worth of the ideas or how those ideas are executed.
Do you see where I’m going with this?
When I started making up stories and writing them down, there was no inner critic present. Why should there have been? I was just playing: making up stories to find out what would happen next, writing the daydreams that I wanted to read and, later, writing chapters about unicorns and kids with magic powers so my younger siblings would beg me for the next installment. It wasn’t until I grew up a bit that I started to worry about things like passive voice, dialog tags, head-hopping, and whether I could write well enough for publication.
The problem is that if we focus entirely on the work of writing (improving our craft, marketing, building platform), it’s easy to forget the joy that brought us to writing in the first place. We forget to play. Our inner critic gains power, and that childlike voice of creativity can be squashed.
Do you ever feel blocked? Stressed about writing? Pressured to produce? Overwhelmed?
Sometimes, the best antidote is play.
Join me tomorrow for some writing play ideas, and give yourself some practice creating without that darned inner critic getting in the way.
Has your experience with the writing process changed over the years? How did you feel as a young writer compared to how you feel now?