So, it turns out “adulting” has its limits.
Play has been shown to reduce stress levels and increase creativity in humans of all ages. The problem is that most adults have forgotten how to play (cue sad music and accompanying reel of wistful images).
To illustrate this fact, we turn to movie tropes (this one’s for you 90s kids!): Near the start of the movie Hook, adult Peter Pan is thrust into the juvenile world of the lost-boys where play is literally demanded of him. Pan finds himself incapable; the once cocky lawyer is utterly out of his depth.
Why do adults lose the ability to play? The simplified answer is that our socialization teaches us to adhere to rules and look to others for behavioral cues. This makes us care deeply about what others think, and in turn fear failure. Since play is essentially a willingness to fail while trying, it often becomes a skill adults lack.
Steal Play back from the kiddies.
Here is a good bit of news: you can curb your inclination towards “adulating” and embrace play again. How? you ask with one eyebrow raised? Minimize the fear of failure by creating an environment of trust. Find yourself a kindred work-buddy or working group where you can develop your ideas with supportive people.
As odd as this sounds, try to care less about what people think when you’re working on new ideas. Go on; embrace your inner honey badger. You can care a little later when you’re past the development stage and onto execution. Above all, make it a point to minimize your limitations; carve out some time for idea-play, and use tools that let you work and rework your thoughts over and over again with little strain on your wallet or environment.
To play is to embrace failure as part of the joyous process, as long as you know to get up and try again. For every “Eureka!” out there, there is an “Ooops!” equal in force and opposite in direction (Newton’s eighteenth law or second law, can’t remember). *
Tl;dr: Create space for yourself to play. Make recess a thing you enjoy every working day to help refresh your brain, and bring on new ideas and inspiration.
And … be kind to yourself when you’re creating, failing, and getting back up.
*According to a thing Frank saw on the Internet that one time.