“It is the essence of play that a new relation is created between the field of meaning and the visual field — that is, between situations in thought and real situations.” — Vygotsky Mind in Society

“most of us are so busy trying to solve problems that we fail to notice that in solving problems we sometimes rob ourselves of the opportunity to learn something new.” Michael Hamman offers an interesting equation:

Creativity = competence + a desire to create a problem.

I agree that creativity requires competence, or at least confidence. I have observed in the development of software that I experience two extremes. One is where writing software is work. I relentlessly chase a bug. I perfect a piece of code through sheer persistence and fortitude. It can be satisfying, but it is not fun. The other extreme is where writing software is play. I can’t imagine that someone pays me for such challenging entertainment. Experimentation yields unexpected solutions. The patterns revealed by the trail of a bug lead to insights. Crafting a solution is a tangible, creative experience.

I often wonder what key factors create the experience of play. When I capture that way of working, I am undeniably more productive. I can see no down side to taking that approach all of the time, except that its not a state consciously achieved. One could argue that some things are just no fun. However, I don’t believe that the level of play is inherent to the task.

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