Sunday, May 14, 2017

Playfulness in Creativity and Problem-Solving

by Rachel Kobin 

Playfulness is a crucial part of what I do to help people tap into their creativity in the Philadelphia Writers Workshop. As children, we learn by playing. We aren't as focused on the results as we are on enjoying the process. As adults, we lose touch with this spirit of play, and this can make it harder to spark unbridled creativity. When we were four years old, did we sit down with our Play-Doh and think, "Now, let's make a sculpture so striking it will soon sit in a museum?" No, when we were kids, we enjoyed the feeling of having that dough in our hands, the color and the smell of it. We pushed it through a garlic press and to our delight it came out looking like miniature purple spaghetti (pasketti!). We showed our blobs of clay to our parents and told the stories behind them. We didn't compare ourselves to famous sculptors because we didn't know or care about who they were. We were too busy enjoying every moment of interacting with our clay to think about how our miraculous blobs might not compare to “Great Works of Art.”

Some writers come to my workshop with one purpose or a fixed idea of what kind of writer they are: One might want to write a personal essay and have it published in a prestigious magazine, while another might have family members who have said, "You should write a children's book in rhyme!" Focusing too much on a goal, especially if it didn't come from our own desires, can be paralyzing.

Throwing all expectations out the window helps us avoid this kind of trap, but it’s not easy to do on our own. Using exercises that seem silly like beginning our writing by pairing veggies with random verbs, help reacquaint us with the playfulness we knew and were often untaught throughout our formal education. Just last week in the Tuesday Night Workshop, we wrote stories about childhood without using the letter a. Activities like these trick our brains into liberating our creativity. By allowing ourselves to be silly, and not expecting our first efforts to even make any sense, we free ourselves to keep going, to get to the rough draft. Once we have our jumbled ideas down on paper in a rough draft, we can begin refining the writing to make it say what we originally intended.

I believe re-learning how to let go and have fun is a skill that can be applied to many situations, not only those in the arts. How often might we be missing a possible solution to a problem at work when we bypass the fun — the brainstorming, the drawing, the imagining? Stopping to play isn't a waste of time; it's a way of giving our brains time to juggle ideas around. Sometimes a masterpiece does emerge, and other times we just feel better, which, of all the worst case scenarios, is one we can simply enjoy. 

Rachel Kobin has been the Director of the Philadelphia Writers Workshop since 2010. Rachel uses the Amherst Artist & Writers Method to help writers of all levels claim or re-claim their unique voice. Through experimentation and play, writers of all genres and forms practice the elements of their craft in a supportive environment. Writers looking to develop new material and writers in the process of writing full-length manuscripts find the support they need to complete their projects. Learn more about workshops and private editing services at Contact Rachel at 610-449-3773 or

The vital importance of recreation and play

by Tracey A. Smith

When was the last time you participated in a leisure activity for the pure fun and enjoyment of it? When was the last time you felt the free spirit of creativity and play while engaging in a recreational activity?

Fun and enjoyment are very important aspects of recreation that increase a sense of wellbeing. Recreation is an activity of leisure, and leisure is defined as free, discretionary time away from work and obligations. In this fast-paced society, we may forego time for recreation and play. However, increasingly challenged by society's high levels of stress, we need the safe spaces and places found in an atmosphere of recreation.

Quite often we have perceived barriers to participation in leisure activities, such as unhealthy habits, lack of motivation, cost, and procrastination. At times, we may experience an attitude of guilt when having fun or doing a pleasurable activity. We may feel like we are being selfish taking time away from family and work responsibilities to enjoy ourselves. Or we may feel that leisure is a waste of time. However, research has consistently found that a balance of work and rest and play ultimately makes us more productive — not to mention happier.

It takes planning to overcome the internal barriers that prevent us from prioritizing play. We may need to pencil or type in time for fun on our schedules and calendars. The quote “All work and no play makes a very dull Jill or John,” also comes to mind when we consider our high investment in work and low investment in fun. When we have hobbies and interests outside our work lives, we can bring more energy, interest, and vitality to our lives and all of our relationships.

The options for how to spend our leisure time will be as diverse as we are. Some people may derive satisfaction from doing something meaningful such as volunteering with an environmental or political group, coaching little league, tutoring, or taking their dog to visit nursing homes. Others may make use of their skills for laughter and amusement, taking a comedy improv class or acting in community theater. Some people will enjoy solo leisure activities, such as writing, photography, Sudoku, or knitting; whereas others will want to seek opportunities for connection with others, whether by participating in sports and social clubs, singing in a chorus, or by organizing a team for trivia nights at local bars.

Individual values like beauty, truth, and equality impact our selection of enjoyable activities. There are many recreational activities from A to Z to fit each person’s needs, temperament and lifestyle. Recreational activities can include creative expression, relaxation, and physical movement. While it may be easy to keep with our “go to” activities, reluctant to take the risk of trying something new, often it is when we venture even a little bit outside our comfort zone that we make new connections, learn new things, and experience pleasant surprises that may even delight us.

“Get to Know Your Social/Leisure Self” Questionnaire

__ I enjoy engaging in activities individually.
__ I enjoy engaging in activities in a large group.
__ I enjoy engaging in activities in a small group.
__ I enjoy competitive activities.
__ I enjoy outdoor activities.
__ I enjoy extreme outdoor sports.
__ I have one or more hobbies I enjoy.
__ I enjoy artistic and/or cultural activities.
__ I enjoy crafting, creating, and/or building things.
__ I enjoy being part of a team.
__ I enjoy meeting new people.
__ I enjoy initiating a conversation.
__ I will spend money on cultural events or entertainment.
__ I enjoy individual or group computer games.

Here are two websites that can help you explore a variety of recreational activities, some discounted or free: List of Recreational Activities [Insert link to: and Philly Fun Guide [Insert link to:]
Treat yourself today to a playful activity, be it for therapeutic purposes or just For the Fun of It!

Tracey A. Smith, M,Ed., CTRS, owner of Wellness W.R.K.S. LLC, is a Certified Recreational Therapist, Wellness Lifestyle Management Educator, and Trainer, who provides educational programs, workshops, trainings, conferences & retreats to companies, schools and community organizations to promote self-care and wellness. She specializes in Workplace Wellness and team building for remote employees. To learn more about Tracey and how you can bring her creative, experiential workshops and consultation to your agency or business, contact her at or 215-605-3221 or visit her website at