Play & Discipline: Good Combo

Date posted: March 7, 2014

I just got off a Skype video chat with my nephew, James, who is studying abroad in Germany. At 21 years old, he is wise beyond his years and open to great, metaphysical conversations. 

We got to talking about an all-too-common struggle — having lots of ideas and interests, and not knowing where to start. So what do we end up doing in a situation like this? Nothing. Unless you count beating ourselves up for doing nothing.

During our conversation, James suggested I watch Elizabeth Gilbert’s TED talk on “Your elusive creative genius.” In it, Gilbert talks about the creative source being something that is separate from you; how in ancient Rome and Greece, creativity was considered a divine attendant spirit that came to humans from an unknowable source, and that it was your job to be a vessel for that spirit.

silly goofy“It’s kinda like what you say, Auntie Kerri, about that younger part of us who we need to help us be in touch with our playfulness and creativity,” James said.

Hmmm. I like thinking of my inner child as a divine attendant spirit who is in charge of the creativity while I, the adult me, is responsible for the execution. It’s the same concept, but framed this way, makes it feel less psychobabbly and more accessible.

As I sit here writing this post, I’m imagining my divine attendant filling me with concepts, language, and creativity as I dutifully type them out with this keyboard. I need her, and she needs me. Alone, neither of us could compose this piece of art.

Think about it. The next time you’re feeling stuck or unmotivated, consider who’s missing from the equation. If you find yourself getting lost in YouTube videos or on Facebook, I’ll bet your little one is in the driver’s seat, and he or she could use some parameters to get things going.

If you’re sitting at your keyboard, let’s say, trying write a cover letter using rigidity and over-the-top expectations, the adult you is probably going at it alone and needs your little one to bring some playfulness to let the creative juices flow.

For most of us, it’s our inner child who’s often left out. We aren’t taught that playfulness is a vital ingredient in getting stuff done. In fact, we’re led to believe that there’s no room for playfulness at all in an “adult” life.

I call bullshit. By remembering what an important contribution your younger, more creative self can provide lightens the load a bit and makes life’s unexpected turns so much easier to navigate. Free-flowing expression and messiness are as important as structure and discipline.

As more and more creative types come out to play (read: take over the world), we need to support each other in wrangling our thoughts and seeing our “scattered” minds as the beautiful art channels that they are. These two concepts can coexist. In fact, it’s this coexistence that makes the magic happen.

So where could you use some more playfulness? Some more structure? How can you start working on including both in your life and in your pursuits? I’d love to hear your thoughts! Please join the conversation in the comments section below

Until next week, keep taking those small steps to Live Out Loud.

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