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Creative play for adults. What is it and why is it important?

November 16, 2015

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I’ve been making things all of my life, but something that has really affected me is perfectionism and trying to get things ‘right’.

“Perfectionism, in psychology, is a personality trait characterized by a person’s striving for flawlessness and setting excessively high performance standards, accompanied by overly critical self-evaluations and concerns regarding others’ evaluations.” Stoeber, Joachim; Childs, Julian H. (2010).

It stems from childhood; sometimes from being told you are good at something, which can lead to a fear of not getting it right next time and lots of internal messages about how it’s got to be perfect.  This can then either lead to avoidance ‘there’s no point doing it if it’s not going to be perfect’ or setting unreasonably high standards ‘if I just do a bit more I will get it right’. Either way, it can lead to anxiety and low mood and effect self esteem.

Art making and perfectionism

When it comes to making art and creative work, this can lead to complete creative block and feeling stuck. It led to me having lots of ideas and not trying any of them out. And it also led to depression and anxiety. I knew the creative part of me was desperate to be let out but I just didn’t know how.

Over the last 7 years I’ve done a lot of work around my perfectionism, particularly around art making. And one of the things that has been so valuable has been creative play.

“Play, first and foremost, is what one wants to do, as opposed to what one feels obliged to do. And is intrinsically motivated – the process is more important than the outcome. Attention is attuned to the activity itself, and there is reduced consciousness of self and time.” Dr. Peter Gray, Boston College

Creative play can help you in many ways, and is just as important for adults as it is for children.

  • It can relieve stress by triggering the release of endorphins.
  • It can help you to focus and get into a flow state
  • It can help you to learn things about yourself and your innate creativity
  • It can help you to connect with others and yourself
  • It can be a way in to your creative power
  • It can help you to find techniques to develop into artwork

“Playing, making mistakes, testing ideas and experimenting are ways we make sense of the world.” Suzi Tibbets

So give it a go. Give yourself permission to just play with some art materials and see where it takes you.

I’m running a creative play session on Saturday 21st November in Manchester for anyone who wants to learn some techniques for creative play. It’s going to be lots of fun! Find out more and book your place here. 


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