Most of us take our creative activities very seriously; and often refer to them as our “work.” In this lesson, you will learn how to incorporate “play” into your creative pursuits, and eliminate the pressure and anxiety that is sometimes associated with the creative process.



To better understand how you can use humor creatively, examine closely something you enjoy doing that you find particularly funny. It need not be as explicit as a joke or a cartoon; a witty exchange in a dramatic scene or a small detail of a painting offer the chance not only to explore the workings of the humor itself, but also its relationship to a larger, more serious whole. Sculptor Alexander Calder, for example, often employed humor by signing his name in the most unexpected and inappropriate place in the artwork, such as in a circle around a belly button.

First analyze the humorous bit; what makes it funny? What are the paradoxes? What is being said, and what is really meant? What is the feeling or desire being expressed? Is there an interaction between logic and faulty logic? Dissect the humor, both what is expressed and how it’s expressed.

Now examine how the humor works in relation to the whole piece. What is its role? What effect does it have on the whole piece, and how are the other individual elements affected by it? What would the piece be like without it?

The next step is to use humor in your own work, or in your own life. Don’t consciously strive for humorous imagery; free association, with its built-in lack of constraints, is the best method. Free association is allowing the mind to wander freely and associate without censorship to a word, image, or idea. Select an idea or emotion you want to express humorously and free associate to it, exploring all its facets. List everything you can; don’t censor yourself, judge your ideas, or try to be funny. Concentrate instead on being as open and free as you can. Allow yourself to take risks and be outrageous. If you find a certain angle or perspective particularly amusing go further with it, see how far you can pursue it. If not, keep jumping around between different approaches. Twist words, juxtapose visual images, play and experiment with ideas until you’ve exhausted all the possibilities. Then look at what you’ve created. A humorous image may have emerged full blown, or perhaps it’s just suggested in part of another image. You may find that combining two or more ideas gives you the impact you want.


For most of us, childhood was the time when our imaginations were the freest. We were able to travel between reality and make-believe with ease and were not slaves to judgment, preconceptions, and even knowledge. Recapturing the free imagination of childhood can lead to greater awareness, for things will be perceived as they truly are, no more nor less, instead of as we the adult mind “knows” or “thinks” they should be.

Toys are the physical, “real-world” elements that the child connects with in order to enact his fantasies and to test reality. Play is the connection between the real world and the child’s fantasy world. According to the renowned psychoanalyst, D.W. Winnicott, playing with a piece of blanket, a teddy bear, a doll or toy is the infant’s first creative act. And a toy is an especially pleasurable outlet for expressing the child’s fantasies.

Play not only leads to insights, it is the first and purest expression of creativity. Through play, you can experience the thrill of novelty, and you can discover by trial and error. Play renders the mind free of conflict, fear, and attachment to outcomes. It facilitates stepping outside the immediate situation and becoming accessible to new ways of seeing. The best time to begin incorporating play into your life is now!