Creative work as play as work

“Almost all creativity involves purposeful play.” – Abraham Maslow

Creativity requires hard work, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be enjoyable.

Play can be work too. In-fact: some people would say that play and work are synonymous. Isn’t play what good, fulfilling work, really is anyway? If you have an objective, a set of rules, and are otherwise free to explore ways to achieve your objective, you’re essentially playing a game. Those same elements are what defines fulfilling creative work too however.

The task to come up with creative solutions to projects and problems is as simple as observing the work as a form of play.

Purposeful playing allows you to explore, to experiment, to pursue unique methods of achieving a goal or coming up with a solution. To quote game researcher and author Jane McGonigal: “Freedom to work in the most logical and efficient way possible is the very opposite of gameplay.” The same definition could be given to creativity: freedom to work in an illogical and often inefficient way. That doesn’t mean you won’t succeed or come up with a good idea, it just means the way you discover your ideas is unorthodox.

This mentality explains why children are considered to be so creative, particularly when it comes to playing imaginary games.

Often we let work intimidate us. Our bills, our future, our reputation, and our success relies on the work we do, but shifting your perspective to one of having fun relieves the stress and helps you pursue creative ideas in very unique (and often rewarding) ways. Grab some Play-Doh or some crayons, gather up some friends, and see how you can turn your work into a game.

So yes: playing can lead you to creative ideas. The hard work is getting down to the nitty gritty in order to play, whenever and however you can. If you can today: set some rules, have a clear objective, and get to work playing.

Photo by Epsos.