While trying to come up with a subject for my next blog post I was thinking about the book I was currently reading, Playful Parenting by Larry Cohen, and how it had absolutely nothing to do with creative writing
Then I thought about it again, and realise it actually had everything to do with creative writing. Playful Parenting is a book that explains what really goes on in a child’s play. According to the blurb, play is ‘children’s way of exploring the world, communicating deep feelings…working through stressful situations and simply blowing off steam.’
Writing is a way for adults to play. I invent characters who bear resemblances to people I’ve met, and have plots that seem like metaphors for things that have happened in my life. In my private journals, I often say things I don’t believe, exaggerating things out of proportion, without having anyone accusing me of lying.
Freud was one of the early documenters of play in children. He observed a young boy play a game called ‘Gone’ in which he repeatedly made a wooden reel on a string appear and disappear. According to Freud the boy was reenacting the traumatic event of his mother leaving, and that the pleasure he derived from this game was helped him to overcome the upsetting feeling of his mother leaving.
When we write, we can return to our storage houses of upsetting feelings, and let them come out. We do not need to write autobiography in order to access the healing aspects of writing. We do not need to even consciously set out to write to heal ourselves.
Sometimes you may have a strong desire to tell ‘the truth’, what really happened in your life. But fictional stories have a way of running away with themselves, of delving deep into your subconscious, and rewriting some of your hidden stories. Writing like play isn’t really about thinking, all you have to do is set pen to paper and begin.
All too often, writing becomes serious. Writing block sets in. We worry about what our audience will think. Or we are in a writing workshop and freeze at the thought of people actually hearing what we are going to write. Then there is the painful work of editing, and trying to get published.
If you find yourself getting too serious in your writing, or describing it as ‘work,’ then it might be time to return to it’s origins in play.
1. I love Sark’s Journal and Playbook, a multicolored book with playful writing exercises such as ‘invite someone dangerous to tea’ and ‘eat mangoes naked.’ Try them!
2. Write like no-one’s watching you. like you will just rip it all up when you have finished. Write in big letters without being afraid of taking up too much space, and don’t worry about what direction you write in either. What would you write, if you were just being silly, saying something that you didn’t really mean, or wasn’t true.