The Element of Play
Joy's Page

The Element of play in the Creative Process

In his work ‚Homo Ludens’ (1938) the Dutch historian Johan Huizinga states that play is a voluntary activity, whose aim is in itself and which is accompanied by a feeling of excitement and joy and in the awareness of being outside of the ‘ordinary life’. It takes place in its own boundaries of time and space and with its own voluntarily accepted, however binding rules.

Being thus detached from ‘reality’ and in the knowledge that no conse-quences will affect their lives outside of play, the person involved in play is able to 'throw off any possible constraints' (Susanna Millar ‘The Psychology of Play’) and move in greater freedom, explore new creative possibilities and engage in a new context or in new social groupings.

To bring an element of play into the creative process therefore, an environment is needed where play is first of all possible: A time set apart, a space created to explore, free from time pressure or deadlines, judgment or thoughts like 'I have to produce' or 'I ought to be better than...'. Play is not yet creativity, but the gains obtained through play might lead to it and if they don't, then the time thus spent was 'just' play and nothing's lost, except maybe a few hours well spent!