Work is Play

After writing a series of articles for my school publication, I came to the realization that the whole time I was writing those articles, I felt like I was playing. The word ‘play’ came first in my mind to describe how I felt but afterwards, I did not think that work can become play or I just thought its weird. So I just let that thought go.

Eventually, I remembered something from Austin Kleon (author of Steal Like An Artist) about work is play. “Play is the work of the child and it is also the work of the artist. I was once taking a walk in the Mission in San Francisco and stopped to chat with a street painter. When I thanked him for his time and apologized for interrupting his work, he said, “Doesn’t feel like work to me. Feels more like play”” write Austin Kleon in Keep Going. “The great artists are able to retain this sense of playfulness throughout their careers. Art and the artist both suffer most when the artist gets too heavy, too focused on results.”

Why adults need to play

The reason the word ‘play’ came to my mind to describe how I felt is mostly because I know what play feels like (I frequently play board games with my community) and I am interested in the study of play and I read a lot about it. So first, what is play?

Kristin Wong wrote in an article entitled How To Add More Play to Your Grown-Up Life about play, “Play is something that’s imaginative, self-directed, intrinsically motivated and guided by rules that leave room for creativity.”

Wong asked Jeff Harry, according to her, is “a positive play coach who works with organizations to use applied positive psychology, why play is important especially for adults. “Adults spent a lot of time ruminating, whether it’s thinking about the dumb thing you said at a party or worrying just for the sake of worrying.” He continues, “Think about how kids are excited all the time. That is basically what we’re all trying to get back to.” Wong noted that play is great for our overall well-being. “There are number of benefits to play for adults including improved stress management and an improvement in our overall well-being—benefits that we could certainly use right now.”

So what I’m getting here is, isn’t it amazing if work can be play too? And also, the fact that I enjoy writing so much just for the sake of doing it and not for external outcomes made me feel similar to how I feel when I play. Something that will not get me all worked up and stressed but rather transcending and just pure bliss while doing it. Tony Fitzpatrick said it best, “Writing is hard fucking work, but it’s not labor.” It gets me all excited having to understand why am I feeling that way because I am knowing myself more. I will spend much more time doing it (but, ofcourse, not to the point of extreme exhaustion) for the sake of my mental health and my sanity.

Going back to the article, Jeff Harry advises to adults, “… take a small break from worrying and do something that channels your inner kid and just beings you a little bit of happiness.” In addition, Austin Kleon advises, “If you’ve lost your playfulness, practice for practice’s sake. You don’t have to go to such dramatic lengths as combustion. Musicians can jam without making a recording. Writers and artists can type or draw out a page and throw it away. Photographers can take photos and immediately delete them.”

Such play can be frivolous but, honestly, looking back at the past years, I’m so glad that I spent a lot of time playing board games with my family and my community. In retrospect, I can say that I live a happy life these past few years. I got anxious a lot and such thoughts are set aside whenever I play. While playing, I stayed in the present, made platonic relationships, and shared joy with others. I think only in retrospect can we actually see the benefits of play.

[For some, work or their job is not play but it is their means to afford their needs or to provide for their family. And that’s okay. There a lot of opportunities where one can play outside of their job. Just do it every now and then. I promise, it’s worth it.]

Published by

Claire Hernandez

I'm Claire, a college student at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines. I write about my journey, growth, and how design influences the behaviour of the users. Moreover, I am fascinated about the psychology of space, hence you can see me citing research studies in my posts. Email: hernandezanaclaire@gmail.com

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