As children we played. When my uncles and their families visited we would have baseball games in the field behind our house (the same place Mom used to flood in the winter so we could ice skate). My dad’s brothers were a lot younger than he was. In fact, one of my uncles is only 10 years older than me. When you’re a kid and your uncles are in their twenties, they seem so cool. And they played baseball with us. Dad never played. He was the movie maker. Our play is forever memorialized on 8mm film.
It seems to me that as we age we “play” for something—a goal, a reward. When we play golf, we strive for a lowest score or when we play baseball or football, it’s the highest score we aim for. We play poker for money. But, do we ever play for no reason at all?
Have you watched how little children play? My grandchildren play dress-up. My granddaughter (4 ½) makes up stories that go along with whatever costume she wears. She insists I play the minister to marry her and her imaginary groom. Then, I get to be the clerk at the honeymoon hotel. Kids run and play with no incentives, no rewards, no keeping score. When/how did we lose that?
I love playing with the grandkids. No pressures, no keeping score. Just play for the sake of play. It’s a freedom I seldom experience. The only other thing I can compare to that freedom of play is when I begin writing a new book. The joy, the newness, the excitement of an adventure stretching out in front of me waiting for me to discover where the adventure is going and how the characters are going to get there. I’ve mentioned before that I’m more a pantser than a plotter so each story starts with a premise and I go with it. Eventually, I remind myself that this is my job, that finishing the book and sending it to an editor is the objective, that there is an incentive (selling the book to a publisher) and that brings about a reward (sales).
But, for a brief time, I can enjoy playing.
How about you? How do you play?