sometimes i need a new perspective (photo from my first Secret Play Date)

Playing on the right side of the brain for serious problem solving is a theme I’ve been intrigued by and experimenting with for awhile…in private.

It’s no secret I’m a fangirl of smArts & culture‘s Maryann Devine. So when she started blogging about her weekly Secret Play Dates, where she gets things done in a playful, creative way, I had to try it.

code names & layer cake

A few months ago, she hosted the very first Society of the Secret Play Date, which has evolved into a biweekly gathering of support and accountability. Unlike most group calls, Society gatherings are not recorded (whew!) and members are encouraged to use code names.

Code names! And you wonder why I wanted to try this!

(By the way, if you do join the Society, you’ll have to guess which one is me.)

I started playing with photography, collage, or sketching, alternating the “play” with “work” projects, like:

  • outlining a proposal for a prospective client
  • sketching out a new program
  • tabulating survey results for another client

Maryann calls this the “layer cake” method, and gives Secret Play Daters a number of approaches to play that I had never considered. Apparently I need to open my definition of play a little wider. All fun, all creative and doable.

(Fingerpainting with ketchup, anyone?)

playing fast & loose and getting it done anyway

Your mileage may vary, but my most successful play dates are the ones where I don’t have a rigid plan on either side of the work/play equation. Before the play date call, I make a list of creative things I could do that are already set up, or easily accessible (e.g. watercolors, doodling with colored pencils or markers, collage, photography) and a short list of 3-4 projects I could work on that would move me forward that week.

Then I let myself play with whatever seems the most fun in the moment and choose the work project that has the most juice. Simple, right?

At the last Society meeting I attended a few weeks ago, I used the first twenty minutes to clear space on my art table, then the last forty minutes scribbling in my secret lab notebook, which helped me make a couple of important decisions that I’d been avoiding. I got on a roll and didn’t need to layer cake.

Playing lit me up, giving me enough spaciousness to get a bit of clarity that day.

In fact, I’ve surprised myself by getting lost in flow and almost forgetting to call back to check in a number of times.

Secret Play Dating reminds me that sometimes I need to get out of my own way and give myself a break when I get too serious. That there is always something I can try when I get stuck, including stepping away from it for awhile. That a little group support can be helpful, and even (gasp!) fun.

encaustic key detail (photo taken at a Secret Play Date, not the art)