The Creative Itch and the Importance of Play

I have… an itch.

Don’t worry, I don’t think it’s contagious. But it does make me curious. Why do I have this itch? How do I scratch it? What happens if I leave it alone? Does it go away or does it just pop up somewhere else?

Perhaps you’ve felt the itch, too, the itch to create something – right now.

I’ve found that it serves me well to give in to this itch. Generally, it finds me whenever I give myself just enough down time to breathe and listen to my thoughts. Usually, it’s during a time when I have lots of other things on my plate that I “should” be doing. However, I find that if I give my itch a good scratch, I am able to think more clearly, be more productive and am just happier all around.

We talk so often about finding balance between work, life, parenting, etc. Pausing for a creativity re-charge, no matter how small, is something helps me hold on to myself.

Fortunately, for much of my life, I have been surrounded by supportive family and people who never second guessed my need to scratch. Growing up, my itch was focused on a pursuit of theatre classes, shows, art projects and many a mess around the house.

As an adult, the itch drove me to NYC to chase my itch full-time by auditioning, performing and working as many jobs as possible in between. After several years, the itch that made it impossible for me to pursue anything other than theatre, had waned.

— I felt some relief. The performance itch was no longer constant (although it still surfaces). I found inspiration and stimulation through my work as a teaching artist and administrator.

However, as I said, this itch pops up whenever I have a little downtime. At this point in my life, many things can scratch it: making a photo collage for my daughter, doodling in a sketch book, making up a song on the ukulele or writing a blog post.

I jokingly refer to this itch as ProCraftination. I give in to these overwhelming urges and itches to make something for no other purpose than my own enjoyment. These short spurts of creative dabbling recharge me and keep me in touch with the parts of myself I most value. TakeAMinute

Luckily, my husband doesn’t bat an eye when, after the baby goes down for a nap, I glide past the dishes and laundry, get out some markers & glue and tell him, “I’ll be back, I need to go make something.” Then, once I’ve colored, read, written, sung or built, I’m ready to get back to the tasks of the day (you know, most of the time 😉 ).

In daily life, time is dictated by to-do lists and tight timelines. I am very goal-oriented and love pursuing my passions each day through my work. However, this is different. This is an uninterrupted window to play, with no end result or polished product necessary. I have come to realize that I am not striving for mastery in these episodes, purely enjoyment of the task.

All this to say that my own habits remind me how important it is for all of us (and especially children) to have space in our lives for creative play. The kind of play that allows you to get completely lost in whatever path you’ve chosen, find “the zone” to be lost in your thoughts, actions and itches.

Sometimes I wish my creative itch would compel me to do something like go jogging or make dinner. 😉 Who knows, maybe it will morph again over time. However, for now I’m grateful for rejuvenation from these episodes of creative playtime.

So again, I’m curious. Do you feel this itch? How and when does it show up for you and how do you scratch it?

If you feel the itch and are resistant, think you don’t have the time, skill or tools to scratch, then I want to give you permission — to play and make something, no matter the mess.


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