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Monday, February 1, 2016

The Importance of Play

by Barbara Early

Hey, did you miss me? Seems I haven’t been around much. Most of December and the early part of January, I was tied up in edits. I finished those about two weeks ago, totally burned out, and took a little play-cation.

No, that’s not a typo.

I suppose the rest of you are bona fide adults and have no such needs, but for those of us with stunted maturity I have a true confession: I’ve never given up on play.


Here’s where I was going to put all those convoluted psychological definitions of “play” and cite research proving why it truly is important—how it reduces stress and increases creativity (the lifeblood of a writer). But it turned out, while the research is there, it wasn’t much fun. So instead, I thought I’d try to explain what play means to me.

Play, for me, is freeing the mind from its normal productive pursuits, and challenging it to focus on new endeavors. Sometimes those endeavors allow the brain to relax, and other times involve learning, forcing it to think in different ways and forge new neural pathways.

For example, play can be something that rests the brain, such as knitting or yoga or listening to music (or even coloring--hey, who thought that would make a comeback for adults). Or it could be physically exerting, like tennis or one-on-one basketball. Or it could be mentally exerting, like many modern strategy board games or, say, writing a novel.

If that pursuit is a good fit, the experience of play leaves us fulfilled and refreshed.

But something odd happens when one becomes a writer. Now writing is the normal productive
pursuit, involving business and work and deadlines and such. It can cease to be play. So what’s a burned out writer to do?

Find another creative pursuit, perhaps? Funny you should mention that. It turned out all I needed was to open my new Christmas present—a Cricut—and see where it led me. Let me show you what I made on my play-cation.
Follow Barbara's board my Cricut projects on Pinterest.

But the craft-binge is over—not that I won’t pull it out when I have a stray moment—and it’s back to work for me. No longer burned out, I’m beginning to enjoy piecing together a plot for the next book.

Maybe some of those ideas have sprung organically from the process of play. After all, Albert Einstein said, “Play is the highest form of research.”



Question: How do you play?




Barbara Early grew up buried in the snowy suburbs of Buffalo, NY, where she developed a love for all things sedentary: reading, writing, classic movies, and Scrabble. Barbara cooks up cozy mysteries with a healthy dose of comedy and sometimes a splash of romance. Barbara writes the Bridal Bouquet Shop Mysteries as Beverly Allen, including Bloom and Doom, For Whom the Bluebell Tolls, and Floral Depravity from Berkley Prime Crime. You can learn more about her writing at www.barbaraearly.com.   **And DEATH OF A TOY SOLDIER, the first Vintage Toy Shop Mystery, is now available for pre-order! **

6 comments:

  1. You are SO right, Barb! We need to play. I need to sew and play puzzle games and color and all that or I will go crazy(er).

    Brilliant post!

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  2. Playtime is so refreshing even when you play hard. Walking, zoo trips, baseball games, and of course trips to my favorite playground of all - are all relaxing even if they wear me out.

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    1. It's true! I tend to prefer play that challenges me mentally and I forget the value of those things that also provide physical exercise. (Which is a bad thing) Hoping my new fitbit helps change that!

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  3. Okay, yes. I'm jealous of your cricut fun!! I did crawl into a fort this weekend, does that count? And I did some coloring with the 4yo.

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  4. I've always been the quiet player...Barbies, coloring(still do!), quilting, etc. I do tend to forget there's a whole world out there to play with!

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