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  • Writer's pictureSarah Loutfi

Pretty Sure Play Is Just Work In Disguise...

The most popular game in our house is fetch. I had to think about this prompt a lot, and while we do play the occasional video game when we have a chunk of time, the reality is that there isn't much time to dedicate to a game. With the pandemic, we haven't really had friends over to play community games either. So that set the thoughts in motion, and it was determined that fetch was the big game in our house.

My dog, Lucy, is an expert at fetch. Watching her brings me a lot of joy, not because she's good (though she really is) but also because she gets so much joy out of it. Her work ethic is inspiring and we could all learn a little something from that, so here it goes.

The following are the steps I've seen her take to get to where she is today:

#1 - Aim To Please

When Lucy first started to play fetch as a puppy, she was really doing it for the party I gave her every time she returned with a wagging tail and the ball I threw to her in her mouth. At some point though, the motivation changed for her because she enjoyed the act of chasing down the ball. Soon enough, she was asking me to play fetch with her rather than me asking her to play fetch with me.

This is a common pattern for most practices. I can imagine a parent handing over that first colouring book. Initially, there's an extrinsic reward of seeing the colouring pages completed, or being proud of yourself after colouring within the lines. These types of little rewards can eventually turn into self motivation. Self motivation can do a load of wonderful things and allow you to pursue something you really like just for the joy it brings.

#2 - External Challenge

One day, Lucy and I went to the dog park to play fetch. A big Irish Wolfhound named Tilly decided she liked Lucy's ball more than her frisbee, so she took it. Lucy didn't mind, although she seemed disappointed that our fetch game was over. Tilly's owner though, had a frisbee and asked if we wanted to try the frisbee.

Lucy had never seen a frisbee, and I wasn't really sure how it was going to go but we gave it a shot. She fumbled and failed. The frisbee challenged her in a way she had not been challenged before. How was she supposed to catch it? How was she supposed to get it up off the ground? She knew I was trying to play, but she was frustrated and confused. This was fetch, but not our usual game of fetch. Then... she caught it, and she got a big party and while her track record of catching the frisbee wasn't the best. She was happy to learn so she could play the game. By the end of the session, she really liked frisbee, even though she wasn't very good at it.

This whole instance is similar to an artist receiving a new tool to use, adjusting the way they work to suit an recent injury or having to take a class in school to learn a new medium. This is a form of external challenge. It's a push in a direction that you weren't expecting. It's something that can challenge you and move you forward.

It will be challenging and trying, but you will also learn new things. And you never know, you might just find something new that you really love.

#3 - Pushing Your Own Boundaries

After Lucy learned frisbee and could reliably catch the frisbee, I saw her technique begin to change. She started to linger in the hang-time state, maybe she liked feeling like she was flying. She started to run faster after the frisbee. She also started to catch it with style, turning around to catch it.

I think this is akin to finding your style. You lay your foundation and then start to add points for style. Maybe this is like pushing shapes and gesture, change up your colour pallette and improve accuracy and speed. It doesn't matter how many times you try, every time you catch the proverbial frisbee that move is purely your own. Your personal exploration can lead to really wonderful artwork that represents how you want to see the world.

#4 - Find Joy

Part of me says that this should probably be #1 (*ponders for a hot moment about life priorities*). At some point all of this work you put into discovery and exploration, becomes second nature.

The important thing to remember is the joy it brings you, because that comes through with in your work (I know this, because Lucy's enthusiasm for frisbee has drawn a crowd of spectators more than once).

Eventually you might seek to start this process over again and a new exploration begins.

So try a class, get some new materials and tools and push yourself a little artistically.

You never know what you may discover.



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