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Creativity coach, writing and creative process instructor, speaker, author of Around the Writer's Block: Using Brain Science to Write the Way You Want (Penguin/Tarcher 2012) and Dancing in the Dragon's Den (Red Wheel Weiser), Teaching Artist at the Loft Literary Center.

If You Want Your Writing to Work, You Must Play

work playStephen King declares in On Writing, “If you don’t want to work your ass off, you have no business trying to write well… (p. 144).”

Most writers I know are willing to work hard, to show up, put in the effort and challenge themselves to make the writing the best it can be.

For my clients, students and readers, the real question is not “Are you willing to work?” –  it’s “Are you willing to play?”

Do you believe in your heart of hearts that play is essential to creativity? (If not, you need to watch this and read this.) Do you know that all work and no play makes Jack not only dull, but completely devoid of creative insight and energy?

Plan to Play, Just Never Get There?

Even when you know play is essential, it’s hard to set aside our cultural expectations that there’s no point in spending time on something that has no purpose, no agenda, no expected outcome, no goal.

To play just for the sake of play is foreign to our culture. We play to win or we don’t play. We have far too many responsibilities and important things to do to waste time just messing around with something as frivolous as creative joy and inspiration. Or developing your brain.

Taking time to play is a challenge even for writers who read my book, follow this blog or take one of my classes and therefore recognize the value of play and fully intend to invest time in Process. Especially when they’re first building their Process habit, the thinking tends to be something like “Oh, I’ll do Process. I’ll paint or collage or dance, but not right now. First I have to…”

Play must be a priority. It seems oxymoronic to say, but you must play.

So how do you play? If you can’t think of answer, how do you WANT to play?

To paraphrase Stephen King, if you’re not willing to play your heart out, you have no business trying to write well.


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4 Comments on “If You Want Your Writing to Work, You Must Play”

  1. Joel D Canfield July 2, 2013 at 10:35 am #

    Marvelous follow-up to Chris Taylor’s post today:


    I DON’T play enough. Even playing a game with our Little One, I tend to think about my *responsibilities* as a parent.

    The two things that can totally take me out of productive mode are playing music and taking a drive. When I’m jamming with friends, there’s no purpose, no goal; it’s just the flow of the music. I buzz for a week after a good musical session like the marvelous time I had Saturday night.

    Driving slows my analytic brain and expands my emotional brain. We’re blessed to live in a gloriously beautiful rural area, so we can drive past lakes and rivers and through forests, all within an hour of home. Best Beloved likes driving as much as I do. We sometimes use the time to dream about our business, but just as often, we wonder at how many shades of green there are, and where would be the perfect place to build a home and live forever.

    Two nudges in one day. I clearly need to plan some play.


    • rosannebane July 8, 2013 at 11:12 am #

      Thanks Joel for pointing out the cross-pollination between my blog and actionablebooks.com.
      And music is a great entry point for me, too. We saw Davina and the Vagabonds live at the Dakota last week and I was transported. I’m not surprised that new ideas started popping in the days that followed.


      • Joel D Canfield July 8, 2013 at 11:29 am #

        We’re seeing Leftover Cuties at the Dakota next week. I’ll be keeping my mind open for the madness on the drive home.



  1. Kid-tested, Writer-approved, Surprising Gifts to Boost Imagination | Bane of Your Resistance - December 8, 2017

    […] Play is essential to creativity. […]


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