Child’s Play

If it feels impossible to get those creative juices flowing, it could be you’re dealing with a bad case of adulthood. Psychologist Alison Gopnick has discovered through her research that babies and children are more conscious thinkers than adults. (Hear her TED talk here.) Children, like little scientists, are constantly taking in and analyzing multiple stimuli.  We, as adults, have learned to focus and tune things out. But in so doing, we sometimes miss out on important information. Gopnick suggests that  “to have open-mindedness, open learning, imagination, creativity, innovation, maybe at least some of the time we should be getting the adults to start thinking more like children.”

I think this is a great idea. Kids play naturally. But as adults, we’ve oftentimes forgotten how. I have been experiencing how the kind of play I use in my improv class can carry over into my writing. Some of the notions finding their way into my writing are:

  • A feeling of playfulness in creating stories
  • The idea of WHAT IF…, and an open mind to all possibilities
  • Exploration of: if this is true, then WHAT ELSE might be true
  • Experimenting with the unusual
  • Fearlessly approaching new ideas
  • Feeling free to make mistakes

When I put something on the page that surprises even myself, I know I’m reaching into new, creative territory. I think our job as writers is to find the unusual in the usual and to dig for hidden feelings and meanings inside our characters and stories. So having an open, playful mind seems like a good approach. When stuck in the mundane and cliché, it never hurts to turn off the adult brain for a while and to think like a child.


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