The creative spirit needs play

The Sparkle Experiment small creative play equals connection

The spirit in which art is made is more important than the art created. By focusing only on the ‘result’ of our actions, we can forget that the experience of making art – having fun and being playful – is what really matters. Children are masters at being playful and are encouraged to play on a daily basis, but as adults, we can loose the connection to our playful spirit.

Fred Rogers in The World According to Mister Rogers encourages “Play does seem to open up another part of the mind that is always there, but that, since childhood, may have become closed off and hard to reach. When we treat children’s play as seriously as it deserves, we we helping them feel the joy that’s to be found in the creative spirit. We’re helping ourselves stay in touch with that spirit too. It’s the things we play with and the people who help us play that make a great difference in our lives.”

How can we connect back to our creative spirit? Make something today. Then make something tomorrow and rinse and repeat. Sometimes all it takes is getting out the colouring crayons and make a big juicy bad art mess. No rules or direction necessary. The only goal or focus is to have fun and feel playful.

“To tap into that natural creative spirit, recapture your childhood enthusiasm for everything around you. Work with the reckless delight of a child.” — Nita Leland

Letting go and the unknown

The Sparkle Experiment small creative play equals connection

What would ‘letting go’ look like when making your art? Perhaps it looks like allowing yourself to follow a strange curiosity or interest in a subject. Allow yourself to spend time, to indulge in the process of making art (although it can be argued that the act of making art – reconnecting to yourself – is not an indulgence, but a necessity and worthwhile endeavour). Elizabeth Gilbert in Big Magic encourages us to “Pursue whatever fascinates you and brings you to life. Create whatever you want to create – and let it be stupendously imperfect, because it’s exceedingly likely that nobody will even notice. And that’s awesome.” It may mean choosing to ‘get it done’ or ‘good is good enough,’ and ignoring the illusive (and impossible) goal of perfection.

Letting go could mean making art in the face of your fears. Steven Pressfield in The Artist’s Journey suggests “The artist is afraid of the unknown. She’s afraid of letting go. Afraid of finding out what’s “in there.” Or “out there… This fear, I suspect, is more about finding we are greater than we think than discovering we’re lesser. What if, God help us, we actually have talent? What if we truly do possess a gift? What will we do then?”

What if we stepped out into the unknown to find out what lies beyond our reach? Discovering what lies ‘out there’ is worthy of your attention and time. For within the unknown, lies your power.

Flit and flutter about playfully

The Sparkle Experiment small creative play equals connection

Picture a butterfly flying around. It can move with seemingly little purpose, flitting about with no clear straight direction and floating on the air as it moves from place to place. Picture two butterflies interacting with one another in a playful dance. Spotting these moment in real life can be mesmerising because they revealing an intimate moment from a normally hidden world.

We can be more like the butterfly in our approach to making art, helping us open up to more joy by letting go of the regular (thought) constraints we put on ourselves. Instead of moving from art piece to art piece seriously thinking about where we’re headed, we could flit and flutter about playfully. We could choose to move with a different, lighter attitude, one that releases heavy thoughts around the value or quality of what we make. Letting go of the burden of our art needing to look a certain way encourages us to continue making in a more playful way.

Float on the air, let go of needing to know where you’re “supposed” to be headed and see where the wind takes you.

Taking note of the value before us

The Sparkle Experiment small creative play equals connection

What is the value in our art right now, exactly where we are today? Sometimes it’s hard to see value when improving or aiming for a specific goal is the focus. It can be deflating to look at today’s art, whilst holding an image in your mind of a ‘better’ version you compare against. Of course you’re not as good as your future self, it’s had more practice. Wanting to jump ahead to the future takes you out of the present — where the benefits of learning, growth and fun lie — and into a constant state of dissatisfaction.

Alain de Botton and John Armstrong in Art as Therapy suggest “One of our major flaws, and causes of our unhappiness, is that we find it hard to take note of what is always around. We suffer because we lose sight of the value of what is before us and yearn, often unfairly, for the imagined attractions of elsewhere.” What is the value of what is before you right now?

It’s no wonder if you feel like quitting because you’re not there yet. But there will always be an elusive place. When you do reach it, the goalposts will move and there will be a new there to reach. If you knew you’re chasing an endless goal, it would be wise (and positive for your mental wellbeing) to have your main focus on the art made today. Take note of how your confidence is improving, how you feel uplifted after making marks, how far you’ve come so far or the fact you’ve made two pieces of art which is two more than last week.

Look at for the value that is right before you (even if you have to look hard to see it, it will be there) and be encouraged with where you are today.

Every day building assets

“Is there something you do every day that builds an asset for you? Every single day? Something that creates another bit of intellectual property that belongs to you? Something that makes an asset you own more valuable? Something that you learn? Every single day is a lot of days. It’s easy to look at the long run and lull yourself into skipping a day now and then. But the long run is made up of short runs.” — Seth Godin

Taking action reveals the next step

The Sparkle Experiment small creative play equals connection

When you begin to make art as adult, it can be daunting deciding what to make next. Three things to bear in mind:

  1. There is no wrong decision
  2. No time making art is ever wasted (even if you think the result is a failure)
  3. Taking action will reveal the next step

You can get stuck procrastinating over what to draw/make/paint next when the answer may pop up whilst you’re taking action. In other words, make something – anything – and while you’re making it, notice what you enjoy most about the process. Say you start drawing a plant and feel satisfaction from moving the pencil in a curved motion. That feedback could lead to the next drawing, where you make more marks that mimic those curves. You then start looking for more curved objects to draw and this reveals more of the path to follow.

You cannot know what the next step is unless you’ve taken the previous step and standing still halts the creative process. Take action by making your art and keep repeating to discover more of your path.