All work and no play …

My last post was heroically epilogued with the glaring disclaimer: “This will, thus, be my last ‘serious’ and head-up-own-arse post. This blog is all about play, play and more play. So keep reading.” Because, after all, all work and no play makes Jack a very, very dull boy. And, as the character of Jack from one of my favourite books and movies can attest to, that way madness lies.

But madness also lies in playing a role, in pretending to be all of the time something which I am only some of the time, or something which is only an aspect of me. I’m very aware that there are people who want me to write as my witty, humorous, irreverent self. And I’m one of those people. A part of me, like them, sees autobiographical, personal writing as Sylvia Plath-like navel-gazing, a masturbatory and unhealthy self-obsession.

But through my journey I’ve realised that there’s another kind of autobiographical writing, another way of being and expressing that being that is not only far removed from the pubescent ‘Dear Diary’ wallowing, but is integral to who I am, where I’ve been and where I’m going. It’s the kind of writing where I take a good, long and very hard look at myself and ask myself where I’m going, and how I need to grow in order to get there; what my boundaries are and how I will go about pushing those boundaries in order to live less fearfully, more as who I could be, embracing and enacting the possibilities I contain.

That writing, that voice, that part of me, is not at all removed or compartmentalised from the me that approaches things through humour. If it were not for my serious, introspective self, I would not be able to look at things from a playful point of view. The playful is at once spontaneous and authentic, but is also something I’ve developed; a way of looking at myself and the world in order to inhabit my self and the world more comfortably. Play and creativity are absolutely essential to my existence, my ability to manage being human, being a human being in this world. But not only to manage being human, but to be true to who I am. I have a tattoo that reads, ‘Create or die,’ and to many people it reads as melodramatic. But the reality for me is that unless I am creating, I am not alive.

The truth, however, is that I am new to play. I have never been comfortable with the child-like spontaneity, the lack of self-consciousness that play requires. I am still learning to let go of who I and everyone else thinks I am in order to discover myself through play, fluidity and creativity.

So, until I can inhabit a playful space unselfconsciously, I cannot write exclusively playfully. That would be a lie. Being authentic to where I am is more important than establishing a façade which I can hide behind and which is more palatable to others. That would not be fair to me, to my writing, or to that reader for whom life is not all wit and humour and cleverness.

I do not want the playful part of me to be an enforced, performative act. I would like it to be an unrehearsed, unstaged and comfortable part of me. And so, with my writing, I will reflect that journey. I will write about what it means to learn to play, about what it means to create a life, a career and a self that is in the creative moment. As I learn to let go of extreme self-awareness and the difficulty of inhabiting my skin, I will learn to embrace a being that does not face the world through a mediated and excruciating meekness. I will write about the journey of creating a self and a life that is not built on compromising myself and my desire to live in this skin and in this world as an artist. I want to be wholly, playfully me and go about creating work that is reflective of that with other people who are wholly and playfully themselves.

This is the Captain’s Logbook of that journey. And knowing where I want to go does not make it any less frightening. Deconstructing one’s life and reconstructing it brick by brick is not easy. I’m under no illusion that it will be difficult and painful. But I am very clear that staying here, where and who I am, is more difficult and painful than whatever lies ahead.

“Before Play” by Vasko Popa

One shuts one eye

Peers into oneself into every corner
Looks at oneself to see there are no spikes no thieves
No cuckoos’ eggs

One shuts the other eye too
Crouches then jumps
Jumps high high high
To the top of oneself

Thence one drops by one’s own weight
For days one drops deep deep deep
To the bottom of one’s abyss

He who is not smashed to smithereens
He who remains whole and gets up whole
He plays


One thought on “All work and no play …

  1. Pingback: My 3-year anniversary as an artist, a creative, a creator of self | life writ large

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