From Sarah, With Joy

*Poet * Author * Wanderluster*

Monday, February 6, 2012

What your childhood play says about your writing

Life is such a weird thing. We grow up, we think we change, but really we don't, so we have to re-contextualize what we thought we were. But that's okay because we've learned along with our growing up, so the context we're trying to fit Us into is larger and deeper and more terribly beautiful. Things we thought we didn't like about ourselves become okay and things we thought we did right we realize are incredibly unimportant. We look at the faces around us and how the most infinitesimal muscle movement in one face can trigger a physical and emotional reaction in ourselves which then feeds back into all the other faces; we realize that this is the only important thing.

We knew this inherently as kids. My high school English teacher used to say, "Creativity does not happen in isolation." It's true. Playing is just not as much fun when you're alone. We think of emotion and personality as coming from the inside, but we miss out on so much when we leave it at that. We are not isolated beings, and creativity is not a self-sufficient resource. We are a direct part of our environment, and it is our interactions with that environment which help mold us. That environment is constantly changing, and so is our relationship with it. But I don't think we so much change as see ourselves from different angles.

That is what play is all about. Seeing ourselves, individually and collectively, from different angles. And as I've grown up I've discovered that the best toys are words. There is also music and paint and dance and, in the theatrical sense of the word play, pretending to be someone else. But inhabiting someone else's existence using these toys and this play isn't so much us being in someone else's shoes as it is showing us the true shape and size of our own. This is why, to me, art is as necessary to life as food and air. This is why we must play.

As a kid, my cousin and I used to take my grandmothers gold-framed mirrors into the bathroom, pretending the shower was our enchanted castle, and ask the mirrors to show us where our princes were. Whereupon we ventured forth to save our true loves. Now, the obvious interpretation of this would be that I am a born feminist, someone who likes to hold the reins. I used to think that, but I've since re-contextualized. While I am a feminist of sorts, and equate sexism with idiocy, I'm still not really a ride my own horse kind of girl. I want to be swept off my feet and taken care of in a damsel-in-distress sort of way. The thing is, I just want them to need me as much as I need them.

This is why, I think, my favorite characters have always been pining men. Severus Snape, Ben Linus, Niles Crane, Mr. Darcy, Dr. House. Men who to some extent appear to have things under control, appear to carry the power, when really they are the ones desperately in need of saving. Their role as "big strong man" is as much for their sake, if not much more so, than for the sake of their "damsel". What kind of needed is deeper than being needed by someone strong enough to sweep you off your feet?

What games did you play as a child? What roles did you perform? And what does that say about your adult self and your writing?

And guys? Don't forget to play.

Sarah Allen


  1. I agree about the importance of play. I love how you relate it to writing. Writing is also my favorite way to play.

  2. I don't know what this says about me but I don't remember playing very much as a small child. I only remember reading. When I was sent outside, I took a book.

  3. I should add - I play far more now as an adult :-)

  4. I used to take all of my stuffed animals (I had a ton) and separate them into teams. From there I made them play baseball against each other. I played with both teams, obviously.

    And now I'm realizing how weird of a child I was. Haha!

  5. I agree about play or creating being as important as air and water. My sister and I used to make paper dolls and play with them. I think it was just preparation for writing stories.

    As a tomboy growing up, I always liked strong female characters too, but I also liked fairytales and the idea of prince charming coming to the rescue and of living happily ever after. Growing up I realize it takes two strong people in a relationship both doing their part to make it work and sometimes you have to save yourself.

  6. Snape has to be one of my favorite characters of all time.

    But Darcy's way up there. I love it when you learn he really is this good man, he's just shy, and it makes him come off as arrogant. LOVE...

  7. I always pretended to be running away from the war (like the Sound of Music and multiple holoucaust stories.) I'm not sure that's reflected in my writing since I've never written about a war. I'll have to think about that some more.

  8. I played with Barbies and (nerd alert!) Star Wars figurines! lol And I would always make a story or movie out of it. I wrote a lot too, but it was always fun actually saying the words out loud and "acting" it out with the toys.

  9. Your high school teacher was a wise person :)

  10. My Barbie and Ken will never forgive me for the scenarios I made them suffer through.

  11. I used to play pretend a lot, generally pretending I was a fantasy person like an elf, or a pirate. And when I used to draw, I never just drew a picture. I drew a whole series of pictures telling the story of a family of cats usually. They were the easiest things to draw. I'd draw the pictures and narrate the story in my head. It was so much fun!

    Now I like to write fantasy. Hmm, I think I've definitely been influenced by play.

  12. I played make-up & hairstyles with my Farrah Faucet doll head.
    Maybe that started my love for all things make-up and tolietries?

    "What The Wind Told" was a childhood book I want to expand on and rewrite for publication. It's about a girl who stays home sick and the wind tells her stories about the people living behind the windows in her tall apt building.
    This explains why people different from me are a fascination.


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