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  • Writer's pictureThe Duffer's Diary

It's Playtime!

Why grown-ups need to play and create

Yellow graphic with a flamingo, a guitar, a pineapple and a martini glass on with the words It's playtime across it
In other words, creativity is not a waste of time

In an ideal world, I'd like to achieve this:

Find three hobbies:

One to make you money, one to keep you in shape, and one to keep you creative.

(Lifted from @WhatTheFFacts on Twitter)

If like me, you've been feeling slightly paralyzed in lockdown, awash with anxiety and generalized existential panic, you’d be forgiven for having the distinct impression that you aren't doing lockdown right as you watch the many people out there who have been throwing themselves into arts, crafts, baking, and general jolly stuff. I believe there are also some weirdos out there who have managed to get a lot of the homeschooling tasks done and *actually* enjoyed it.

Good on' em, but unfortunately those of us who have worked throughout need a little more assistance in activating our inner Cbeebies presenter gene, or are just too knackered to try. Still, you've managed to pause the rat race for a while, so why are you still flicking mindlessly through Twitter? I also must be the only person left in the English speaking world who has failed to watch “Tiger King” so I’ve even failed at binge-watching Netflix series until my exhausted eyes roll out of my head and across the floor.

Also, like a lot of people, I'm the very devil for creating a list of activities, obligations, and responsibilities for myself that mutate into a reason to beat myself up later. In fact, I'm doing it *right now*, because now that I've started this post, there's part of me that's whispering censoriously in my ear. The difference being in lockdown, I’ve been looking at the list and somehow not actually doing that either.

"Christine, there's some mould somewhere that needs treating/a sock drawer that needs sorting through/do something productive/you can always do some of tomorrow's work today!".

The implication is that somehow, once I have dealt with that obligation, (that I have probably invented and will not kill anyone if I don’t do it now) I will then have time to do the things that I want to do. Things that, incidentally, my inner critic has labelled as frivolous.

That’s the big scunner about anxiety, I tend to have two settings: busy and miserable (and yeah, you shall know my state of mind by the shininess of my toaster) and “Thousand Yard Stare”. In light of the world going bonkers, and the size of my home, Thousand Yard Stare was definitely the better of the two options.

The thing is, even under non-extraordinary circumstances, I really enjoy writing (but I don't take anywhere enough time for it), I enjoy singing (but I only do it in the car), painting (literally when I'm ill and recuperating) and playing the guitar (on odd weekends, but I get frustrated because "TA-DA!", I don't play enough). I'd walk more, but I'm working all the time but shifts and childcare can make that awkward.

Why should I abandon doing something I love doing in favour of something that will drag me down if I decide that I should do something *worthy* instead? And why am I always putting all of my adult responsibilities ahead of the hobbies and pursuits that enrich my life? In other words, I need to remember that I should pay the mortgage, but that grout mould can probably wait another day (as long as it hasn’t reached the point of sentience).

You can call it your inner critic, the thought police or imposter syndrome, but because of my background growing up in a mining area on a farm, I tend to think of my judgemental voice as the "Inch high Pitman" or “Inch high Farmer”. A Geordie version of the Harry Enfield if you will, “Yee divent wanna dee that, man!” with an unending compulsion to piss on my chips.

I do that classic thing where I end up doing something that merely fills time, rather than something that I actively enjoy and participate in. The problem isn't with passively consuming something per se, (I love a good Netflix binge as much as the next person) but it's more that my deferment of my own emotional and creative needs makes me restive, and it can become a downward spiral. Procrastination is not your friend.

So why aren't I doing the things I love for a much larger proportion of the time, rather than tiny chunks that leave me dispirited and sad that I'm not doing more of it?

It all boils down to how we as a society label different types of work, and creativity is considered to be a type of play, and let's face it, society sees the arts and creativity as whimsy, pretentiousness, and frivolous. If you have a little wander around creative forums you’ll be appalled at the number of times people are asked to give away their work for free, for exposure, and because they don’t really see the effort involved in creating something. They only see the finished product.

And life is not about products, doing creative things often isn’t about the result for the person doing the creative act, it’s about the process.

And what could be more satisfying than adding to the sum of human endeavour by doing something that feeds your soul, that might be beautiful, evocative, or thought-provoking – or just something with enough of you in that can make you smile and say “I made this”. Remember play is essential, and yes, I know I need to remember that too.

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