TIPS FOR TAPPING INTO YOUR BODY FOR HEIGHTENED PRODUCTIVITY—Playing, Daydreaming + Imagining
Here’s part five in my series on tapping into your body for increased creativity and productivity (and bucking the whitehetciscapitalistpatriarchy while you’re at it).
Tip #5. Daydream, Imagine, Play!
I struggled a good deal with writing this post. Namely, because a lot of resistance comes up when I even write the words: Play. Imagine. Daydream. Vision. This resistance falls into two main categories, I think.
The first, is that these words feel (or are often treated and received as) airy fairy, arsty fartsy, woo-y, and childish. The second is that play and work are somehow antithetical or in opposition.
I’d like to disentangle these words: play, imagining, daydreaming, from both of these criticisms. #1 that they are not the opposite of work, and #2 they’re also not fragile, wishy-washy or limp. They are powerful, vital and crucial tools we have for making or doing absolutely anything new. For creating any change. adrienne maree brown uses the phrase “shaping change,” and I think that’s a lovely, and powerful, way to conceive of it.
Let’s begin with the first criticism/resistance. Now, to be clear, I love people places and things that are airy, fairy, artsy, fartsy (well maybe love is stretch here, but we all have those days), childlike and woo. BUT, also, I want to address these terms and concepts with the weight and dignity they rightly deserve.
Because there is nothing light (or lite) or even easy about imaginative play, daydreaming, and/or visioning. These things are hefty, and powerful as shit.
I attended a community gathering on MLK Jr. Day a couple years back, and we were asked to imagine and describe our ideal community—what it would look like, what physical spaces would be like, how it would be laid out, how it would function, where/how would people live, work, eat, make, learn, have families, etc., in my absolute ideal world… And it was so HARD.
I felt like I was actually trudging through my own brain, pulling up fence posts and tearing down barbed wire, pushing aside all the “that’s not possible’s,” “but it could never actually be that way’s.” (Because, yes, pulling down walls is the first step to any sort of change—literal or metaphorical.)
It was hard work to imagine beyond the possibilities of what I have ever known and experienced. But then, once I tore down some of that scaffolding, ripped open some space—a big field, in fact—it all came zipping in—and I had trouble writing fast enough to get it all down. It also became fun, playful.
But, it is hard to create, even in imagination. It is labor. It can be fun, but it is also difficult work. And by work, I mean effort, intention, exertion. However, it’s absolutely crucial work. Because to be able to create anything, we have to be able to envision it first.
Because everything that exists in the material world, on the physical plane, existed first on the imaginal one.
(At least everything human-made. Though many religious and spiritual and even scientific traditions hold a similar myth/maxim. First came consciousness. First came IDEA. In the beginning, was the word.)
This is one of the reasons that I love speculative fiction: it allows us, forces us even, to imagine new worlds. And in doing so, allows us to understand more about our world. Who we are and who we are not, by what we are capable of imagining and what we are not.
If we cannot conceive of a world without racism, sexism, trans- and homophobia, a world without hierarchies built on (created and imagined) dichotomies—how can we ever hope to reach it?
If we cannot imagine something, daydream it, play with it in our minds and lives—we can never hope to build it. Be it a chair, or a novel, or a new world.
Which leads to the second category of resistance, namely, an internalized guilt—well-honed by an American Protestant work-ethic mythos and a Catholic upbringing that just laps up any opportunity for guilt like water in a desert—which claims that play, daydreaming and imagining are anti-work and anti-productive.
But as I’ve just elucidated, play and work, daydreaming and doing, are not, in fact, in opposition, and are quite similar indeed in their requirement of sustained effort. It’s just that exertion can be enjoyable, pleasurable even. Hence, play.
Play is effort and labor, and it is necessary, crucial, in fact, for survival. It is how all mammal babies (humans included) learn and practice the tools and techniques they will need to survive. But, play is interested in the process rather than in the final product. The engagement and enjoyment and practice and learning and growth that occurs—opposed to (only/primarily) the final object produced.
Where work and play differ most then, seems to be not so much in their execution of effort, as in their expectations for the process and for outcomes.
So, I suppose this post became more of a “In Defense of Play” treatise, and feels like one of my more serious pieces—but I guess that is my point.
Play is serious—and it’s also messy, pleasurable, stinky (sometimes), airy-fairy, absolutely necessary, and FUN.
So carve out time today to play, and imagine, and daydream. Stop and smell the flowers. Talk to them. Ask them to help you imagine the world we could become.
“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution.” —Albert Einstein