The Importance of Play

Painting by Wendy Chidester

As I have been struggling to stay productive over these last few months, I have also been contemplating what it means to incorporate play in my life in equal measure. Once we grow up, society basically tells us that play is no longer important for adults; but nothing could be further from the truth.

Play adds a sense of vitality to life – without it, life becomes dull, restrictive, and duty bound. Play helps you to feel more optimistic and creative because you tend to come up with innovative solutions to problems. It is also the foundation of most cultural aspects of our life such as art, games, books, sports, movies, and many more – basically the things we enjoy doing during our free time.

I referred back to the book “Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul” by Dr. Stuart Brown, and I wanted to share some of the insights from that book that stayed with me. One of the activities that Brown recommends is taking a look at your “play history” as both a child and adult to figure out what activities you most enjoy. Some of the questions he advised asking yourself include:

  • What did you enjoy doing as child? Why?
  • When have you felt free to do and be what you choose?
  • Is this part of your life now? If not, why not?
  • What do you feel stands in the way of your achieving some times of personal freedom?

When I completed my play history, I remembered that I spent a lot of time reading when I was young – my fondest memories involve libraries, book mobiles, and hours curled up in my cubby hole with a good book. Reading is one of the activities I consider to be my form of play now. But there was a period of time in my life where I was not reading on a regular basis, and my life was definitely not very enjoyable. I remember having thoughts like “Is this all there is?” (which is one of the questions that Brown mentions being a common question for people who are mainly just doing what is required in life without having much fun). Then, in 2007, I had a sort of epiphany, and started reading fiction again in earnest. Since I started reading again, my life has certainly changed for the better – I started to attend book related events, met new people that shared my interests, joined a writing center to learn more about the basics of writing, and of course, just started reading for pleasure in general. My other forms of play are also related to storytelling – writing and producing illustrations to accompany my writing.

One of the most compelling chapters in Dr. Brown’s book identifies eight basic play personalities that most people fall into (one is your dominant type) – here are general descriptions of the play personalities:

  1. The Joker – these people love nonsense, practical jokes, and telling jokes; they love to illicit laughter; examples include stand up comedians and class clowns
  2. The Kinesthete – these people love to move; they actually think better when they are moving – examples include athletes, dancers, yoga instructors
  3. The Explorer – these people love going new places, exploring new emotions, or delving deep into things at a mental level through research; examples include frequent travelers and scientists
  4. The Competitor – these people love competitive games and activities with specific rules; they play to win; examples include sports, gambling, sales
  5. The Director – these people enjoy planning and executing scenes and events; they like power, organizing, and throwing grand events; examples include event planners, film directors, entrepreneurs
  6. The Collector – these people enjoy having and holding the most, the best, the most interesting collection of objects or experiences; examples include hobby collectors, flea market lovers
  7. The Creator – these people find joy in making things or making something work; these include artists, crafters, designers
  8. The Storyteller – these people love using their imaginations; enjoy telling stories or reading/experiencing the stories created by others; examples include performers, writers, illustrators, cartoonists

As I mentioned earlier, I identify most with the Storyteller. Which one do you identify with the most? This may be the key to figuring out some activities and hobbies you might consider adding to your life to increase your sense of play.

In summary, we play to bring joy into our lives. And we can do this at any age. As one of my favorite Christmas songs says about the Christmas spirit being for “kids from 1 to 92” – I believe play is for all ages as well.

To learn more about Brown’s research on play, check out his book or visit his website at the National Institute for Play

2020 Life Updates

Photo courtesy of: vi.sualize.us (2)

We all know what kind of year 2020 has been, so I am not going to spend much time dwelling on it. I decided instead to share some of the good things that have happened in 2020 since my last post.

Move to Michigan – I moved to Michigan (from Massachusetts) at the end of August (this is the reason I have been so quiet on the blog; it takes a lot of time and energy to move). The idea had been brewing for awhile, and circumstances aligned to make it possible – so I made it happen. It was hard to leave behind my job and friends, but I am excited to be back near my family. I am also happy to be in a place with more diversity and a reasonable cost of living. Now, I am just anxious to find a job and a new place to live.

The Magic Feather – This time without a job has actually been great for my creativity. I started a story called “The Magic Feather” that will be told in the form of an illustrated journal by a young black woman in her early twenties. It will be set near France in the 1920s – some parts will take place in Paris but most parts will take place on a mysterious island called Peacock Mountain. The island is home to an art colony populated by exceptionally talented (and magical) artists, and my protagonist will be a newcomer tasked with chronicling/archiving what is going on. So far, I have written about 11,000 words and I am excited to keep going.

Mind Mapping – I have rediscovered the power of mind mapping for sorting out my thoughts. I have started using them for everything – planning my future, planning the scenes I am about to write, mapping the ideas I want to remember from the books I have read, and much more. I have started keeping them in the same hardbound books I use for journaling, and they are all in the same journal so I will know where to find them when I am ready to refer back to them.

Commonplace Book – I have also created a Commonplace Book to keep up with all of the bits and bobs from my writing projects. Commonplace Books used to be popular before the age of the internet- they basically are like written scrapbooks to keep up with content you want to remember such as quotes, poetry, recipes, lists, song lyrics, and the like. I have tweaked it a bit to also include imagery I find inspiring as well. It feels good to have a tangible book to flip through when I am seeking inspiration for my writing or illustrations.

Storytelling Focus – I have been thinking a lot lately about what the focus of this blog should be going forward. I have so many interests that it can be difficult to narrow things down. However, I think I have got it – I am planning to focus on celebrating the art of storytelling. My own stories and those of others plus story related content in general. I am still working out the particulars, but I feel good about this direction. Stories have always been my true passion, so it makes sense to put my focus on what I truly love. I am hoping to post more frequently too – I’ll start with once ever other week and see if I can work up to weekly posts. Baby steps!

Most Impactful Book – I have read a lot of books during this time of transition, but I decided to share the one that has been the most impactful during this time. The book is called “World Enough and Time” by Christian McEwan. I learned the following:

  1. Giving yourself time affluence = increased well-being. We tend to think about affluence in terms of money, but time is the new luxury.
  2. To engage in the art of reverie, which means slowing down, observing, sauntering, wandering, pausing, and digressing; basically the activities that our society deems a waste of time are actually essential
  3. The emotional parts of our brain take their own sweet time – empathy, imagination, love, fidelity, and ethics
  4. Instead of rushing from one new thing to the next, it is helpful to return to the same works to see what they reveal
  5. William Stafford advises having a symposium with the self early in the morning – he used to wake up at 5:00 a.m. and put his mind to work on whatever he found fascinating before everyone else in his household awoke for the day
  6. Unitask – multitasking leads to inefficiency and distraction

Most Inspirational Illustrator– I have been enjoying the work of the writer and illustrator Maira Kalman for some time now, but I had never really drilled down to learn how she thinks and works. I decided to change that by engaging in a deep study of her – examining her work, listening to various YouTube videos, and reading articles about her. These were my takeaways:

  1. She navigates the world with a sense of humor and irreverence. She learned both from her mother – a woman who left her husband in Tel Aviv to move to America, wore only white, and did exactly what she wanted each day of her life.
  2. She says her creative process is to walk around daydreaming all day and sharing her personal views via illustrations and writing. She takes long walks everyday and documents what happens.
  3. Her philosophy is that there are only two vital things in life: Work and Love. If you put work into these two, you have a shot at happiness.
  4. She starts each day by reading the obituaries. She finds it extraordinary to read about the totality of peoples’ lives, and it motivates her to go forward with her day and make the most of it.
  5. Her favorite quote is: Not everything will be okay, but some things will.

I know I covered a lot in this post, but I had a lot to share after being away so long. I hope that you had some positive things happen in 2020 that you will be able to carry forward into 2021 and beyond.

The Word Wrangler

The Word Wrangler by Cindy Adelle Richard, Illustration, Art, Forest

The Word Wrangler by Cindy Adelle Richard

Gigi Halliwell, otherwise known as The Word Wrangler, swirls among the fireflies, letting words emanate from her core. She is oblivious to her surroundings, completely lost in the land of intuition. Letters float through the air, and she is able to reach out to touch each of the letters and rearrange them to spell something profound. She has tried conjuring these words in different locations, but the middle of the forest seems to work best. In the forest, she is close to nature, away from prying eyes and opinions. The letters seems to come alive – glowing and moving about in graceful swoops. They always seem to attract fireflies; they can sense whenever Gigi enters the forest and swarm around her emanating more light.  Gigi grabs a stick to record the message in the dirt. The letters stay in place only for a moment, and then they resume floating in the air. At first, the words do not always make sense alone but when she copies and rearranges them in a notebook, they make beautiful poetry. Haikus to be exact. One poem a day is about all she can manage.  She shares her poems at The Wily Word Cafe in the middle of town, writing each one on the chalkboard the proprietor set up especially for her. The haikus always tell the citizens of Peacock Mountain what they must reflect upon that day – things that nature wants them to know. They all respect these messages.

A Feature About My Career Journey for Women’s History Month

Gillian Barnes from our Marketing and Communication Department at Endicott College asked me to speak about my art career as part of a feature for Women’s History Month. Gillian saw my calendar posted in a colleague’s office and wanted to know more about how I balance being an artist and working full-time as the Director of Internship – I am honored that she expressed interest in my career journey and wanted to share it with others.

Here is a link to read the article: Cindy’s Art Career Journey

Poetry Plans for 2020 and Tips from the Book “How Poetry Can Change Your Heart”

How Poetry Can Change Your Heart Book

How Poetry Can Change Your Heart Book

I read an excellent, slim volume called “How Poetry Can Change Your Heart” by Andrea Gibson and Megan Falley, and I wanted to share some of the great tips I picked up from the book. I made a commitment to study poetry deeply this year, and a few days later, I stumbled upon this book in a bookstore. These are points that I want to remember, but I always like to share when I find content that is inspiring and useful… so here goes:

“There is a poet out there who is fluent in you (pg. 8) .” – The authors are encouraging readers to keep searching until they find the poets that resonate with them; I needed to hear this because it is often frustrating for me to find poets I really love. This reminds me not to give up hope, to keep searching for poets that know just the right words to awaken the dreamer in me.

“Ayurvedic medicine suggests the root of disease is often undigested emotion. Therefore, to feel is to heal (pg. 30).” – Writing poetry helps us to express emotions that are not always easy to express in day to day life, and in so doing, it helps to keep our energy flowing. I suspect a lot of us suffer from repressed emotions, so I loved this sentiment.

“One of the absolute coolest rules of writing is the Great Paradox, or, the fact that the more specific something is, the more universal it becomes (pg. 38).” – This helps to encourage me to write specific words related to my own unique experience. I often wonder if others will be able to relate to content that is unique to me, but this gives me permission to be uber specific – the details make the difference.

“There is no wrong way to experience poetry (pg. 49).” – The authors said that you should avoid writing the types of poems that turned you off from poetry in the first place (at least when you are first starting). For me, that is all the forms of poetry with lots of rules (i.e. couplets, tercets, quatrains, etc.) – as a result, I gravitate to free verse poetry because I want my writing to be as free as possible. Write the poetry that excites you!

“Poetry is the pen-and-paper version of paying wondrous attention (pg. 99).” – The authors talked about the importance of noticing – really, truly slowing down and paying attention to your surroundings and your life. And keeping a notebook with you at all times so you don’t forget the details.

“Make a list of things you could speak about for thirty minutes or longer. Review the list (pg. 111).” – This point addresses the age old question of “what should I write?” Well, write what you can’t stop talking about when you are given free reign to talk. And keep an ongoing list of those topics so you will always have a starting point when you sit down to write.

“Once you start to write and read every day, you will begin to think in poetics (pg. 119).” – It is important to establish a habit of reading and writing regularly if you want to get better at writing poetry – this is something we all know, but we constantly have to be reminded of it (or at least I do).

I hope you enjoyed my brief list of tips on reading and writing poetry. I would definitely recommend this book – if you like books such as “Steal Like an Artist” and “The Artist’s Way”, you will probably like this book for its straightforward, practical advice.

 

What is Your One Word?

Art Supplies by Cindy Adelle Richard

Art Supplies by Cindy Adelle Richard

I recently attended a talk by Erik Qualman where he spoke about the digital legacy that we each create online. The brief exercise he had us complete really caught my attention, and felt compelled to share it – it was about identifying our one word. One of the aspects of leaving a positive digital legacy (simply defined as the content that you leave in cyberspace that will be there forever) should be achieving authenticity. To get at what makes us authentic, Erik had us answer a provocative question, “When you die, what is the one word you want people to use to describe you?” For me, the word “artist” immediately came to mind. It is the truest aspect of who I am, and it is how I want to be remembered on this Earth. It took me a long time to find my way back to being an artist (over 30 years). As a child, I definitely loved art – I enjoyed drawing and painting, writing stories, and reading voraciously. There is a newspaper photo of me on my first day of kindergarten (our local paper covered the first day back to school), and do you know what I was doing in the photograph? Drawing with an intense look of concentration on my little face. Being a proud mom, my mother cut it out and laminated it to keep, and I’m so glad she did because it is a lovely reminder of what I loved most as a child. And what I still love most as an adult.

I would encourage you to take some time to complete this exercise. The word you choose may be as unique as you are as an individual, or it may be as common as a character trait or social role chosen by many others. Erik only gave us a minute to think of our word, but you can take all the time you need to answer this one profound question, “When you die, what is the one word you want people to use to describe you?”

The Butterfly Charmer

The Butterfly Charmer by Cindy Adelle Richard

Agatha did not discover her love for the cello until she reached her twenties. She had always been extremely active as a young child and participated in lots of sports; the thought of slowing down to play an instrument never crossed her mind. In college, Agatha’s music theory class took a field trip to a museum, and as part of the experience, the students got to try out lots of different instruments. For some reason, the cello just clicked with Agatha. She had no idea how to play it yet, but it just felt right resting against her body. With the support of her music theory professor, Monsieur Lamb, Agatha found a good cello instructor and started taking lessons in the afternoons after classes.

One day when Agatha and her cello instructor, Mr. Kim, were practicing, they decided to go outside to play because it was too warm inside. By this time, Agatha was quite proficient and could play lovely songs on the cello. As she played, butterflies started to swirl around her – first one, then two, and by the time she finished, there were about 20. Mr. Kim had never seen anything like it. The next day, they came back to the field to play, and the same thing happened. Out of curiosity, Mr. Kim played his cello to see if the butterflies would gravitate toward him, but they just fluttered away. From then on, he referred to Agatha as the butterfly charmer. Whenever she performed outside, day or night, butterflies appeared and fluttered lazily about enchanting everyone present. Agatha loved this spectacle because she had always been fascinated by butterflies. It always made her happy to see that the butterflies enjoyed her music, and she kept them in mind when she started to compose music.

To bring Agatha and her butterflies home with you, visit Etsy

Thinking About Why You Create

The Blank Page by Cindy Adelle Richard

I recently read a book called “What’s Your Creative Type: Harness the Power of Your Creative Personality” by Meta Wagner, and the content was intriguing enough to share. The reason that Wagner wrote the book was to help artist know why they create so that they can maximize their creative potential. The most accomplished and prolific artists know why they create and use it as the driving force behind their work. I am going to provide a summary of each of the types and one example of an a well-known artist who embodies that type. My goal is to introduce you to the creative types and hopefully pique your interest so you will seek out more information.

The A-Lister: Seeking Applause, Adoration, Fame, and Immortality

  • thrive off of adoration and attention from others
  • have a strong need to have people see what you see, feel what you feel, think what you think
  • feel alive when performing for others
  • want to be remembered after you die
  • more interested in the finished product because that is where the glory comes from
  • compete against past and present artists you admire
  • Example of an A-Lister Artist: Pablo Picasso was not only content to make art, he did everything in his power to also ensure he was famous and made money from his art.

The Artisan: Truly, Madly, Deeply Devoted to Creativity

  • just being creative provides its own satisfaction
  • lose all sense of time when deeply engaged in the creative process
  • the thrill of making something from nothing keeps you enthralled
  • love the process even more than the product
  • would keep making art even if no one paid attention to it or paid money for it
  • often look to artists who came before you for inspiration and information
  • Example of The Artisan: Vincent Van Gogh spent years learning to paint and he was quite prolific, yet he really didn’t sell much work when he was alive. He was completely driven by the creative process and making paintings.

The Game Changer: Creating Something Entirely New

  • make new, revolutionary, visionary art – originality crucial to you
  • want to expand the limits of art and get people to see the world differently
  • become restless and bored with following conventions so constantly experimenting with new approaches and techniques to keep yourself engaged
  • may have to wait years, even decades, for your ideas to be accepted
  • Example of The Game Changer: Jackson Pollock created an entirely new way of painting and changed how people looked at abstract art, and the world noticed.

The Sensitive Soul: Expressing Yourself and Helping Others

  • feel things deeply and use creative outlets to channel them
  • lots of things stir your emotions
  • can be thin-skinned, but have a great ability to empathize with the feelings of others
  • when they use art to bring themselves relief from suffering, they also help others to escape their pain
  • always seeking ways to cope with and make meaning out of life
  • often use their personal experiences as the catalyst for their art
  • Example of The Sensitive Soul: Frida Kahlo used her painful past and raw emotions to give her paintings power, and her work has emotionally affected art lovers for generations.

The Activist: Changing the World Through Art

  • desire to create art that has an impact – changes the course of people’s lives or even the course of history
  • tend to see injustices everywhere you look, and you refuse to stand idly by – you must do something
  • there is often a sense of urgency to your work
  • tendency to follow politics and world events on a consistent basis
  • art is often created for shock value and/or to send a message
  • Example of The Activist: Banksy uses street art/murals to spotlight political or moral injustices in our current world. His message is usually anti-war, anti-capitalist, or anti-establishment.

Whether you identify with one, more than one, or none of these types, I hope they will get you thinking about why you create. I do believe that it is helpful to know why you create so that you can return to it when times get tough or when you need to refocus your work. It also helps to know so that you can find the inspiration you need to keep going. I would also recommend checking out Meta Wagner’s book in its entirety – in addition to in-depth descriptions of these types, she also goes into subcategories of the types and helpful hints on how to work best with your creative personality.

My NaNoWriMo Project 2018

Adelle by Cindy Adelle Richard

November is one of my favorite times of year because 1) I get to take a week off for Thanksgiving, and I use it to watch lots of T.V., read lots of books, and take lots of naps and 2) it is National Novel Writing Month. I attend meetups to write with the NaNo North Shore group, a wonderful group of people who encourage each other and have fun together. We always hold an event one day each November where we write all day and night (24 hours), eat lots of food, and talk in between writing (another November favorite). I never actually do what I am supposed to do during NaNoWriMo (write a novel that is at least 50,000 words); I usually use the time to work on whatever project has been brewing in my head for a while. This year I have decided to spend the month fleshing out this fictional art colony that has been taking shape in my mind since January. The paintings I have been creating this year have come about because of this fictional place which I have named The Isle of Adelle. I imagine that Adelle, the woman pictured above, founded this special art colony on an island off of the coast of France circa 1920. You will hear more about this special place after I have a chance to fully imagine what it is all about – who the people are, what they do each day, the climate, and so on. I am excited by the idea of building my own world and letting it take shape on paper. If you are participating in NaNoWriMo this year, happy writing!