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Play like a child to boost your creativity

One of my writing teachers once gave me and the rest of the students in our class an assignment to “play.” She went so far as to assign toys to us.

Somehow, she knew that playing would help us stretch our creative muscles. She instructed me to play with Play-Doh, the squishy colored clay you probably had as a kid.

I remembered this recently while reading the book, Finding Your Way in a Wild New World: Reclaim Your True Nature to Create the Life You Wantby Martha Beck. Beck writes about a genetic trait called “neoteny” from the Greek word “neo,” which means new, and tenein, which means “to stretch.”

This trait makes us stretch beyond our capacity just to see whether we can. This stretching enlarges our ability and confidence and is the underlying motivation of all true play, according to Beck. Playing expands our willingness to explore, invent and take creative risks leading to something new, whether it’s an idea or improved skills.

Neoteny creates the capacity in our brains to learn and develop new ideas no matter how old we get.

You might even serve yourself creatively by looking at writing as “playtime.” Take the attitude that it’s just fun and you’re playing with words as if they were puzzle pieces to see what happens. It’s a good way to remove pressure from writing practice and see what new and original work you might produce.

So if you’re looking for ways to be more creative and achieve breakthroughs in your writing, consider adding more playtime to your life, whether it’s playing with a Slinky, fingerpaints, or words.

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