the circular runner

play is the new work…if you’re an artist, at least

In career, life, observations, writers & books, writing on October 22, 2012 at 4:30 am

I recently attended Story World 2012. I’m happy to report that it was well attended, well organized, and the talks were, for the most part, thoughtful and thought provoking, which is a lot of thought when you get right down to it.

If I had to describe the main theme of the event, I’d say it was play. There was a lot of talk of play and the importance of allowing yourself as a storyteller to create experiences (we don’t just create stories anymore according to the panelists I heard) that allow us to be kids at heart, and that allow our readers (experiencers, I guess would be the right word) to be child-like as well.

Usually, I get a little annoyed when people start talking about permission to be a child, about the need to release our inner child—I hear these phrases and think psycho-jargon from a time long since past, a time when bell bottoms and free love were the rage.  (I’m not talking about the 2000’s by the way.)  It’s not just that it sounds dated, I also think that language hides a certain hypocrisy.  It’s like the people saying these things need to take their own advice and not take themselves so seriously. I don’t know, but no child I know sets out to be child-like.  They just are what they are.  Shouldn’t we just be who we are?

Damon Lindelof, creator of Lost

The panelists who I saw at Story World—each and everyone—all seemed to answer this question.  They made me realize that that is the point: people do not act as they really are; they act as they think others expect them to be, and hence, they need to be reminded to allow themselves to be child-like when the occasion calls for it.  According to speakers like Damon Lindelof (creator of Lost), Sean Bailey, the President of Disney, and Brian Clark (Transmedia guru), one such occasion is when creating narrative.

I already knew that as a writer/creative/storyteller/experience maker, I had to get my child on.  I mean, what is storytelling if it isn’t make-believe?  But at some point, I felt guilty for letting myself be that child who likes to revel in stories.  Sadly, make-believe is believed by many to be only for children.  After some time at Story World,  I realize that that is BS. Play is good and it’s nothing to be ashamed of.  In fact, I think if I’d let myself explore that inner child a bit more, my writing and my art would be all the more strong.  And I think the same is probably true for anyone who has to be creative.

What do you all think?  Does art require a childlike appreciation of play?  And if art does require an inner-child, does this mean I have to get out my bell bottoms?

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  1. I’ve been doing The Artist’s Way, which spends a lot of time on childhood, working under the thesis that the play we freely engaged in as children gets quashed later on, and that part of recovering our artistic ambitions is recovering that sense of play. I think I do believe it, although I’m having trouble finding my way back to that sense of play.

  2. I’m pretty sick of the inner child thing. I’m an adult. It’s hard to be an adult, besides, living with children I’ve learned they make really poor decisions based on really bad judgements–like playing in the street, hitting each other, calling others names, etc., etc.. I’d rather release my inhibitions as an adult. Maybe I’m jaded. Maybe I should read The Artist’s Way.

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