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Deep Play

ecohn's picture

     It’s fall. It is supposed to be cold. Instead, the sun warms us as we sit in the grass. He smiles at me as we reminisce on the beauty of childhood. A kid runs by with a kite, painting shapes in the sky. The child’s parents guide her away from us; I guess it could look sketchy, two teenagers sitting on the edge of woods in a park. But we are literally just sitting there. We’ve been outside for hours, kayaking and walking, and just talking. It’s been so nice to see him. For the first time in a year, he’s come to visit me. We’ve spent the whole day together, and I don’t ever want it to end.

     This rare sense of joy, freedom, and lack of though, can be defined as Deep Play. In chapter one of Diane Ackerman’s book Deep Play, she defines the concept as many different things. Some of the main qualities of a moment of Deep Play include some sort of connection, joy, freedom, lack of thought, physical engagement, and rarity. For me, having my friend visit filled all of the aforementioned criteria. But more than that, it filled some others that we talked about in class. One quality that we discusses that most examples of deep play have was “alternate reality”. In hanging out with my friend, I imagined a world where he didn’t live hours away—where we were best friends and spent all of our time together. In class, we also mentioned that there might be some sort of risk involved. For me, it was the risk of losing him. We had met two years prior to his visit, and had only seen each other face to face for about four days. But in that time, we realized that we are very similar people. We recognized that we were destined to be friends, and had maintained many insanely long phone conversations during all the time we couldn’t spend together. Seeing him again was scary; what if he didn’t like me anymore? What if we had grown apart? But after a day of catching up, it was clear that this had not happened.

     Deep Play is everywhere. Especially in writing. Critical writing can be full of deep play, especially when the author is able to get out of their head. If you are able to write about what you are thinking, your writing is prone to take on a more organic form. This might include a less tight focus on structure, the allowance of connections with outside knowledge, and the writing about something that is actually on your mind, rather than just droning along fulfilling an assignment. Although all of these qualities, I believe, are characteristics of deep play in writing, probably the most important one is that you cannot simply sit down and begin writing a work using deep play. It absolutely has to be accidental.

     Looking back over my writing throughout this course, I have found that I use deep play in the vast majority of my works. I have even noticed a trend; I have repeatedly incorporated a sense of deep play into my opening paragraphs for essays in order to hook my audience’s attention. I’ve found that, with my tactics for writing essays, it is much easier for me to be happy with my writing style if I start my paper off with some sort of detailed memory or telling of something exciting.

     One example that showcases this tendency of mine comes from my essay titled “The City of Brotherly Love”, which was one of the first essays I wrote for this class. This essay was written in response to the class trip into Philadelphia, when we went to the performance of “The Quiet Volume”. I started this essay with the paragraph:

     “I stepped into the streets, the brisk winds pushing and pulling my hair. Between the cold temperature and the stimuli of the city, I immediately found myself more energized. That was the first thing I noticed when playing in the city.”

     In that paragraph, I mentioned how the rare occasion of our Philadelphia field trip brought me joy and a sense of freedom. I pointed out the lack of though I experienced, but how I felt an ecstatic fullness of time. I also talk about the connection that I felt with the city in that moment. By using deep play in my writing, I introduce my essays to the reader, while still avoiding the “five paragraph” essay-writing that high school focuses so hard on teaching. I am able to take my writing to a deeper place, and allow a more organic flow based on what I was thinking about with the writing assignment.

     More specifically, looking at the particular essay that I previously quoted, I made connections with my outside knowledge. The prompt for the essay was to read and reflect on our trip into the city. Because of the vague prompt, I reached out to multiple sources in my mind, and ended up drawing connections between many things. One example of this is how I mentioned finding serendipity in the city, thus drawing information from Bloomberg’s article “So Much for Serendipity”, which we read in class. I also compared this specific city with others that I have known. This really showed what was on my mind, and therefore resulted in me being much more interested in the essay-writing than I could have been if I were merely finishing an assignment.