Skip to Content

Block Magazine

Creativity has its place
Issue 25

Play Hard




Graphic photo of person climbing stairs to reach flagpole. Stairs read " Focus", flagpole reads "Fun".

The memories play as episodes: the parent-teacher interview in grade two where I overheard Ms. A declare I was “kind of lazy” (I’d write and illustrate little stories at the expense of whatever else I didn’t “feel like doing,” she said) and the time my dad reported, three years later, that an instructor I idolized said I was slacking off “as a ploy for attention” (in lieu of long division, I’d spend my afternoons on a classroom Macintosh typing out a novel).

Sometimes, the best way to work is to face the unknown head-on.

Nobody suspects you have attention deficit disorder when you’re a girl and you’re smart and you seem able to focus on what suits you. It wasn’t until recently that I came to accept the fact of my congenitally distractible brain and, with it, an important lesson: Sometimes, the best way to work is to face the unknown head-on and get focused by the puzzle of figuring it out.

My child-self sought quiet by indulging creative aptitudes with deep, albeit selective, curiosity. I became consumed by whatever held my attention and followed where it led. What I didn’t realize was that this tendency—in a word, play—could be repurposed as a powerful tool. Instead, for years, I did the opposite of what came naturally: I hunkered down. I gritted my teeth and willed my way through to-do lists. By approaching my university years and early writing career as I thought I was supposed to, I made my work feel infinitely more work-like—and smothered my ability to create anything that didn’t kind of suck.

I had fooled myself into believing that “just get it done” was the ideal working ethos. In the process, I missed something essential: If we approach work with a sense of openness and the possibility of discovery, we can give it the room it requires to take shape. It means trusting our instincts, embracing our idiosyncrasies and breaking down any given task into the steps or chunks we need to make it less scary and more engaging. It means admitting what we don’t yet know and allowing ourselves to get engrossed in the magic of looking for solutions.

I wish that I’d figured out earlier the importance of looking for the fun in the things that are hard. Maybe then I’d have learned basic math. But what I grasped as a child without realizing it is something I’m relearning now: that the pleasure of creating, and of doing our best work, always comes from trusting ourselves to ask the right questions—and then answering them.

Share this article

Related Articles