Child’s play

​To be creative should be child’s play for us. I’ve said before that creativeness is the base state of humanity, it’s default, not it’s exception. To come up with a story, to make up a word, to do a dance, to pull a face, to feign a posture or play a role; all this should be easy. But put on the spot, asked to do these things at a moment’s notice, we freeze.

That’s because as we age and mature, as well as accumulating wisdom, smarts and responsibility, we also collect inhibitions. An inhibitor prevents full expression of a thing. For example, our social status prevents us from engaging in certain activities. Our chosen roles compel us to act this way and not that. The implicit rules of the communities and networks we mooch around in reward certain behaviours and punish others. 

This creates a state affairs which severely constrain creativity and expression. Of course, some of the constraints imposed by social and societal structures are there for very good reasons. If we think someone is attractive and we’re single, there are written and unwritten codes of conduct that it’s wise to observe. In other scenarios, not so much. Think of a C-level executive. His position is deemed high status, so it’s hard for him to act low status; to goof around, to role play, to pull funny faces and make weird noises. It doesn’t matter whether the desire behind these impulses is whimsical or meaningful. His very status makes it unlikely he’ll express them.

Naturally, children are not concerned with these very important matters. They want to explore, they want to play, they want to make things and use their imagination, and they want to make friends with other children who want to do the same. We can take a cue from that. But the aim is not to perform some weird regression in which we attempt to shed the obligations and responsibilities that entail being a grown up living amongst other humans. No. Instead, we can learn to, like children, loosen—or totally disregard—selected inhibitions. We can learn to feel when they are constricting us and loosen the stranglehold they have over our impulses, visions and the actions that follow.

For example, I’ve always thought that writing a book or penning a story is this Big Thing. That it is a Serious Endeavour which requires Much Thought, Careful Planning, Long Periods of Dedicated Time and Hard Work. But maybe it isn’t? Maybe it doesn’t? Perhaps I could tell a story on the fly? Let’s see.

. . . 

Winston has been at it all night. He turns off his bedroom lamp, throws open the curtains, and continues by the light of day. As the sun begins to peak over the roofs of the terraced houses across the street, he finishes his letter to Beatrice. Just in time too, as he hears the floorboards outside his door creak. His parents are up early and coming to check on him.

He places the letter quickly and delicately in the envelope, folds it up so it’s as small as can be, and fixes it to the leg of Nigel. Nigel is a bird who owes Winston a favour. Many favours actually. After injuring his wing performing a daring stunt for some potential friends, Nigel was abandoned as cat food in the local park. Winston, having lost his mother whilst she thought he was playing in the sandpit, walked by, scooped him up and nursed him back to nearly-full strength. First out of gratitude, and soon after, out of fondness for Winston and his predicament, Nigel agreed to be the go-between between Winston and Beatrice.

The door to Winston’s bedroom opens hesitantly at first; Winston’s parents don’t want to wake him. But seeing his bed empty, their hearts pound and they throw open the door. Winston is silhouetted in the window by the rising sun. Mr and Mrs Roberts knew that their son had recently been tending to an injured bird, but they had no idea the bird was part of an elaborate, diabolical plan to get Winston’s secret out to the world.

While Mrs Roberts is preparing to shriek and scream and shake, Mr Roberts is darting across the room, not to grab Winston, but to stop that bird from escaping with whatever it is that’s attached to its leg. But Winston is equal to the reactions of his father. He opens the window, scoops Nigel up in his palm and tosses him with a mixture of desperation and joy into the sun. Nigel, not expecting to be hurriedly catapulted into the air by his newest and dearest friend, plummets briefly. But flying is his art; he recovers instantly. His instincts take over, and as a salute to Winston and a mocking gesture to the infuriated Mr Roberts, who is nearly hanging out of the window, he does a loop-de-loop before setting off across the rooftops to find Beatrice, his second-dearest and second-newest friend.