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  • Writer's pictureGina Greenlee, Author


Gina Greenlee Collage

No Alarms, Doodling and You at Age 3

Ever notice how kids play? When they make up stories they roll from one idea to the next. Mikey says, “Sally’s gonna stand over here.” Jimmy adds, “Yeah, I’ll walk in front of her and she’ll follow me!” Then Sally jumps in and all three bounce ideas off each other. There’s no great plan. No focus on particular outcomes. Maybe the play makes sense. Often it doesn’t. Not logically. That’s okay. Making sense isn’t the point. For children, play is a state of being. Not a goal or product.

As adults, when we trade creative ideas we call it “brainstorming.” We sit in conference rooms. We state rules for how to share. A scribe captures ideas on a white board. Later, an administrator types and emails the notes.


Ideas flow more easily when we play with them the way kids do, tapping an organic mash up of notions for its own sake with no particular end goal. When we cultivate playfulness in writing it becomes adventure. We anticipate the journey and open ourselves to discoveries at every turn.

How do we play with writing? We borrow energy from enjoyable activities and use it to transform our relationship to the page. Children do not play in linear fashion. Neither would adults except socialization imposes structure on play, which has its own form. Grown folks spend much time cultivating rationality and order. To write without stress and anxiety, table that. Instead, enter your writing with the child energy of non-directed play.

Play is an altered state of consciousness in which we’re relaxed. Receptive. New ideas engulf us. It allows us to experiment without attaching to outcome when we listen to an instinct that says “move this there and see what happens.” Maybe this trial and response sparks writing that produces a “wow.” Maybe it doesn’t. It might, though, suggest a new direction you would not have considered had you been closed to following that first instinct. Immersed in process, we are open to what’s directly in front of us. We are willing to risk more, to view experiments as conduits for information, not wholesale failures. When we play, we discover because we allow emerging ideas, images and feelings to organically shape themselves.

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Light, buoyant, playful energy creates a more relaxed atmosphere for authenticity.
Bowen White, M.D.

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To be Prolific without Pain:

  • Be Aware Of How Children Play. Yours or the grandkids, nieces, nephews or neighborhood tots. In big box retail stores kids fascinate me. Spatula, hat, a random piece of string or dust bunny; for them it’s all play and possibilities are everywhere.

  • Be a Child At Play. No plan, no goals, only the moment. One of my favorite pictures of me was taken at age 3. I’ve framed and placed it in areas around my apartment I so love it. She’s my muse. Your version of her is you between the ages of 3 and 7. If you don’t have a young image of you readily available, go find one that makes you smile and place it on your nightstand, where you gather your mail or place your keys. Scan the image to your mobile device. In the same way you keep handy photos of children in your life ready to gush over at a moment’s notice, do the same with that part of you that carries the torch for play. Ignore the adult brain that says play is a “waste of time.” It’s a state of deep relaxation where the cool ideas hang out.

  • Wake Up Without Alarm. Transition from sleep to wakefulness as your body naturally dictates. Then, lay still for 15 minutes to explore the ideas waiting for you in this trance state.

  • Doodle. Play with images that spring from your imagination. When we doodle – during a meeting, waiting in a customer service telephone queue, during a school lecture or at a conference – it’s the moment-by-moment journey that engages us. We have no attachment to how (process) or what (product) we are doodling. Often we don’t even care about the doodle, usually tossing it out on whatever scrap of paper we created it on. Other times we might look at it quickly and think, “Uh. That’s interesting.” We’ve made a discovery. If we approach writing the way we doodle, we allow the organic output of our subconscious to surprise and amaze us.

  • Laugh. Read a joke book. Find truly laughable videos on line. Attend a live comedy show, which offers the tribal experience of uproarious, transformative laughter. A tremendous mood booster, laughter helps you not to take yourself or your writing so seriously. There was a time when I didn’t laugh. Not regularly and not from that spontaneous, muscle-puddling place where my body goes limp. So, off to a local comedy club I went where, every two weeks, I let it rip. My body relaxed. Breathing came more easily. This lightness seeped into my day job, relationships, errands and the crevices between. Spontaneous laughter filled my days like those of children simply free to be.

  • Color. Do you like arts and crafts but haven’t touched paint or crayons in years? Local crafts store, here you come! Mosey. No expectations. No shopping list. You’re on an adventure.

  • Ride. If you like two wheeling, do it. Tires flat? Pump ‘em. If you’ve been using the handlebars as a clothes rack, relocate your sweats and towels to the closet. Don’t own a bike? Rent.

  • Wander. Go to your local dollar store. Rather than stock up on items such as auto or cleaning supplies, food, dental floss and toothpaste, explore the toy section instead. Visit aisles you typically overlook. No plans. No goals. Wander and see what happens.

  • Have another art practice that speaks to different skill sets. For me it is collaging and paper doll production.

  • Move. Dance, hula hoop, walk, skip. This are great low cost, low maintenance ways to shift energy before and after writing.

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