I was chatting with my across-the-corridor cubicle neighbor at work the other day, and the subject of Legos came up.
“Yeah,” he said, “I used to really love those when I was a kid. But I haven’t played with them in years. I don’t even have them anymore.”
“Then you should get some more,” I said.
He gave me Odd Look #27. “Why?”
“So you can play with them, of course.”
I could see him thinking about it. I knew he thought he was too old for that. (He’s in college.) So I decided to help him out.
“I’ve got some,” I said. “My husband and I both do. I even got some to put in his Christmas stocking.” (This was probably not the time to tell him just how many we have. Which isn’t huge amounts, but we do have a few of the larger castle sets, and quite a few generic bricks–I grab them whenever I see them at yard sales and thrift stores.)
“Huh,” he said. “What do you do with them?”
I shrugged. “Sometimes we get them out and build things with them. Just for the fun of it.”
“You know,” he said, after thinking about it for a minute, “that sounds like fun.”
“It is,” I told him, turning back to my work with a grin.
I don’t know whether he’ll actually get some Legos and play with them. But at the very least, I’ve hopefully opened his mind to the possibility that it really is still okay for him to play.
I don’t know why it is, but many people seem to forget how to play once they get past a certain age. And that’s a real shame, because play is a good way to unleash your creativity. It removes barriers and boundaries, and makes the impossible seem possible.
In some ways, writing is a lot like letting my mind out to play. First I create a world, and then I add some characters and some situations…and then I play with them, just like I used to play with my Barbies and my Legos. What happens if I do this? How would this character react? Should he be sad, or jealous, or angry? How does his reaction affect those around him? Before long, I’ve started to build a story.
Playing also helps free your mind so you can take a more creative approach to problem-solving. It helps you see different perspectives on an issue. And it just gives you a rest from the stresses of everyday life. So I believe that a certain amount of “play time” is a good and valuable thing.
But you know, the more I think about it, the more I wonder if the problem isn’t that people have forgotten how to play. Maybe they just need someone to give them permission.
Okay, then: You, there. Reading this blog. Yeah, you. By the power vested in me, I hereby grant you permission to let your mind out to play. Sometime in the next week, allow yourself to take part in some kind of undirected activity, for at least half an hour. Longer if you want. I know it might be hard, for those of you who haven’t done it in a while, but try it. Just for a little while.
The Legos are optional. (But highly recommended.)
Who knows? You might surprise yourself!