The play must go on

I have day-job writing to do today, and the inertia is palpable. Perhaps if I approached it with the joy that I try to bring to my creative writing. There is a pattern to day-job writing that can feel restrictive, but there is a pattern to creative work, too. Perhaps …

perhaps … perhaps … perhaps!

“Find me in my next book,” I said in the postscript to my last book. Find me on the next page. Find me with your hands and eyes and ears.


Steven Pressfield tells the story of finishing his first book, and going to his mentor to proclaim victory, who said only, “Good for you! Now start on the next one.”

Start the next one. Here is my 10th book. Have a nice time with it, but I need to work on the 11th. There’s my 15th journal — I’m sure there are some nice nuggets in there, but I need to be here, in the 16th. I dropped my 324th consecutive daily blog post yesterday, and I’m proud of that, but my mind is here in the 325th and thinking about 365 at the end of next month.

It’s actually no different from the day job. Here’s today’s news, but, excuse me, I’ve got to be working on tomorrow’s news now.

The play must go on. More to the point, the play must continue. We are born to play, and so we play until we can play no longer.

… And in the space between the last two paragraphs, I found an answer to the inertia. You see, I started to write “the work” must go on, but I realized no, not work, we are playing at life in the sense that we seek joy and comfort and a sense of triumph, and while the games can be deadly serious, we are most fulfilled when we feel a win coming on … even when the win is defined as a loss in which we gave the task — or the game — all we had to give.

“I have to go to play,” the bread winner might say.

Instead of “Will you marry me?” the suitor might ask, “Can you come out to play?”

If our hard work were child’s play, would we feel better about it? And by child’s play, I mean the attitude, not the difficulty level. “Become as children,” Jesus said, or was it Paul or someone else speaking holy words? In the curiosity and open-mindedness of a child is an approach to everyday life that needs to be preserved or recaptured and rebuilt and reasserted.

The play must go on. Find me in my play. Look! I made this. What are you making there?

All of these creations I have surrounded myself with in this room — including the comfortable old chair — were made by children who grew up and made things — serious things, whimsical things, profound things, silly things, musical things, colorful things — that spark of childlike curiosity still aflame and still marveling at the possibilities. If we could bring that pleasure of discovery to all of our actions and interactions! What a world that would be.

If the day was always a new chance to see what we could find and learn and improve and share … If we moved from sand castles to skyscrapers but still had time for sand castles … remembering the joy and investing it into finding and creating new joy …

If we approached each day with the eagerness of a child at play — no, no, no, not “if.” The play must go on. The play must go on.

Although must is a command word. Mandated play is not play at all. I say “the play must go on” to convey a sense of urgency in myself, to suggest a way that seems right ot me. If you feel better to tell yourself “the work must go on,” that a time comes to put aside childish things, and this gives you a sense of accomplishment, who am I to say you should think of it as play?

So I speak for myself when I say “the play must go on.” Think of it as an invitation. Try this attitude out for size and see how it fits.

As for me, I see by the clock that it’s time to set this journal down and move to, well, playtime.

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