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Deep Play In Critical Writing

Samantha Plate's picture

Samantha Plate

Play In The City


Deep Play in Critical Writing

            Flying through the rain forest, suspended on a wire, attached by a few metal hooks and fabric straps, completely alone. I was so intensely afraid of that first zip line. It was a fear of the unknown to begin with and then a fear centered on the danger of the activity. Those first few times, which were very short and slow in comparison to what was to come, were some of the scariest moments of my life. But then I began to get adjusted. I learned the rhythm of the activity. You jump up to hook yourself on and off. You place your gloved hand on the wire and hold the strap with the other. You lift your feet, and when the instructor pushes you, you’re off. There’s no turning back. For a few short moments you are alone, with only the sound of the buzzing wire to keep you company. At the end, you pull down on the wire when signaled by the waiting instructor. He holds a rope attached to a stopper to help you brake. You jump up to unclip and move round the tree to the next wire. This became a ritual as I made my way along the 13 cables the fear began to dissipate and I was finally able to fully take in the experience. I stopped concentrating on the logistics so much and fully absorbed the feeling of flying through the sky, the canopy of the rainforest all around me. There is no way to describe it properly. One cable in particular, the longest one we went on at 430 meters, I remember very distinctly. This one in particular was very open and I could see for miles all around me. I also deeply felt how alone I was. If I were to brake, I would be stuck out on that wire for a while, until one of the instructors came and towed me back. Suspended in the sky, I have rarely felt so relaxed and at peace with the world. I was thinking, only feeling, and it was the best feeling in the world.

            I think that’s what deep play really comes down to, a sense that everything is right. Deep play often involves a lot of aspects seen in my experience and in Ackerman’s writing. It is often risky and adrenaline increasing. It is often unfamiliar and usually rare. These are all aspects that Ackerman believes are needed. But the most important aspect of deep play comes from within you, not the activity, something Ackerman does not articulate as well. To me, deep play is when you begin to feel a sense that this moment is important, maybe even sacred. You usually become aware and yet experience a lack of thought. There is a feeling of freedom and fullness of the moment is almost tangible. This all comes together to create a sense of peace that you are aware of and you can almost see the experience from the outside, and see how it is encapsulated into a moment. This all sounds very vague and also pretty strange, but it is very difficult to describe, but when you are in a moment of deep play, you’ll just know.

            Just like how I experienced deep play when I stopped worrying about the risk and procedures, deep play in critical writing is when you worry less about the prompt and format and more about what you want. To really write deeply about something you need to care, you need to have a connection to the topic. If I had no emotional investment in zip lining, the experience would not have been special at all. The same goes for writing. You must also stop thinking. Don’t worry so much about what you need to write, and concentrate more on what you want to write. There needs to be a sense of freedom. By letting go of the fear, I was able to play deeply during my zip lining experience. There needs to be risk involved in your writing, and you can’t be afraid of it. And most importantly, play. Critical writing can often be boring and extremely structured. By playing around with your writing it can become more fun for you and more inviting for others to read. This is something that differs from the traditional American education. We are taught how to write a classic 5 paragraph essay and answer a prompt. Letting go of that can be very difficult, as I’ve learned in coming to Bryn Mawr. More teachers should encourage their students to play deeply in their writing because it makes the writing process a lot more interesting, and enables both the writer and the reader to engage more with the topic.

            I could apply this idea to my own writing. In my fourth essay for this class I discussed the definition of play. Ironically, I failed to play in my writing like the way I claimed to play in real life. If I were to write this essay using deep play, I would probably open with an “in the moment” description of one of the experiences I discuss. I would then delve deeper into the other experiences. After, I might pull back and see how this could be seen as one whole definition of play, rather than many distinct ones. I would also structure my essay less strictly. Instead of planning out which definitions and experiences I would use and where, I would just write what I felt needed to be said and then worry about any organizational issues later.

The first paragraph might sound a little bit like this:

We seemed to have taken a wrong turn somewhere. Walking down the streets of Philadelphia, my group and I were in search of mosaics. At an intersection we randomly chose to go right, hoping this would take us the correct way. It did not. The street soon hit a dead end. While trying to decide where to go next, the sounded of laughing children caught my attention. We were right near a playground full of children who had just gotten out of school. Wanting to follow our course assignment of “play in the city” we decided to go in and join all the children having fun on the jungle gym.