Hand Drawing as a Communication Tool
February 4, 2012
Julia Cameron
February 17, 2012
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Playing in the Work Zone

Playing around in my sketch book

Are you working on a task that needs a unique, creative solution? Try taking the kindergarteners’ approach, playing around with it. Yes, when you are relaxed and playful, it is so much easier to be curious, to be an explorer and to be open to innovative ideas with different outcomes. Why not bring your playful self to enhance your creative process?

A play approach to problem solving is about using your right brain. This focus includes looking at the task holistically, integrating your emotions, adding your intuition and kinesthetic knowledge. This approach moves away from a single, correct solution to multiple solutions that can be explored for their results.  Remember the kindergartener with their building blocks, they are building as they go, they are open to using different shapes and sizes for their structure. There is no agenda or preliminary sketches. They are open to the results and usually are quite pleased with the outcome.

When finding new solutions for a task, do you stick with the logical, analytical, fact-based focus and linear approach? Are you more comfortable with using your left brain?

Actually, finding unique creative solutions works best when use both the right and left brain.   I appreciate how this image  illustrates how this works.  Notice two different types of activities and the bridges that connect them.  A whole brain approach to problem solving includes both sides of the brain and using the bridges to link the different styles and ideas together.

Using play vocabulary words assists me with practicing my play attitude.  I use words such as exploring, fooling around, trying a new direction, having fun, enjoying, researching, moving into new territory, see if this works, and experimenting.  These words free me up to see different solutions and innovative results.

Try this out.  Next time you are challenged with a task that needs a creative approach, do the linear, logical research and be sure to add a play attitude as you work through your solution.  Take time to fool around with your ideas, use play words, be a kindergartener.


  1. mylene watson says:

    Where I work (at a hospital pharmacy), it is apparent that the left side of the brain is truly getting a work out among the pharmacists. In fact, it is overworked as I have observed. On the other hand, among the technicians, who are in the Tech II positions, it seems like neither side of the brain are being put to use.
    Once upon a time, the techs had more important responsibilities as far as the whole pharmacy wheel was concerned. The tech then would make their rounds picking up orders from the nursing units and entering them on the computer. This process alone took knowledge and creativity, mainly because you would have to be creative enough to understand and decipher the scribble of most doctors and then have the knowledge to enter it onto the computer. While waiting for the pharmacist to verify the order entries made by the tech, the tech would pull meds to be placed into the Pyxis machines, and then prepare to make the next round by filling med bags and making IVs that were printed. The tech would basically be the Pharmacist’s right hand. They actually used both sides of their brain!!
    I myself used to use both sides of my brain but in a different way. Yes I did have to use my both sides to do my work. But the right side also had a chance to play freely. I had the time to coordinate and decorate for parties (for both individuals and holidays) and bake cakes for these parties. For six or seven Christmases now, I have coordinated fund raisers for our department for the hospital’s Adopt-A-Family program, which also included going out and buying the gifts. A task that no one would volunteer for. I was the sucker. But I loved doing it mainly because it gave me an creative outlet in all aspects of the task. I have also participated in the hospital’s themed Christmas Tree competitions and have won 2 or 3 times in different categories. I’ve also done Pumpkin Carving Competions and won a couple times earning chicken wings for my department, which sparked our department’s Annual Holloween Parties, which I also decorated for.
    Nowadays, the only responsibilities the tech has is to pull meds to be filled in Pyxis and make deliveries to the units. That is the majority of the responsibilities of all techs with the exception of maybe two. It feels like all techs have been made into human robots with no creative thought processes. There seems to be no more time for our brain to play. I mean, with the exception of paying attention to what you’re doing, what creative brain activity does it take to fill med orders and Pyxis? And even if a tech submitted an idea (creative or not), to be implimented to a process, its like no one seems to be interested or want to look at it.
    So now, times have changed and one can see the writing on the wall (or should I say ‘drawing’ on the wall) that the creative aspect of being a tech has left the building. No more creative brain activities at work.

  2. Melissa Stevens says:

    The title of this piece – playing in the workzone – describes exactly what I needed to do to complete my Community Center project for Design Concepts class. Still feeling so new to the program and overwhelmed by my current workload – both inside and outside the classroom – I was stuck creatively with how to best complete the layout and finishes and making the space work for all who will use it.
    After class was over and I did a little whining, I started to think of the converted firehouse from a child perspective. What did I remember about firehouses from when I was little: the bold red color, shiny poles to slide down and spotted dalmation dogs. Voila` – ideas!!!
    I thought I was being silly in my approach to the design, until I found this article. As an adult, I think its weird to think of playtime as working – it sure confuses the family sometimes. They see me on the computer or drawing out this and that, and they assume its okay to begin their favorite game: 20 questions. Thanks for the article.

    • drawinghand says:

      Hello Melissa,
      Great to read your post. I am glad that the article was able to keep you inspire to work on your assignments. I know it is challenging to keep working on these especially when it all gets overwhelming. Take care – Prof. Stephanie

  3. Samantha C says:

    Prof. Stephanie,
    I too liked the second photo that was in the blog. I think that if you use both sides of the brain it will give you a better solution. I just wander which side I favor more. And I look forward to changeling myself to act more like a kindergarten and not know what the outcome will be but to look at it and be happy with the end result.
    Thank you,
    Samantha C.

    • drawinghand says:

      Hi Sam, I agree that bringing our kindergartener with us when we are learning new skills can be so helpful. Being open to results and celebrating our progress is great. Prof. Stephanie

  4. Ashley Byrd says:

    Hey Prof. Stephanie,
    I enjoyed reading this article as well. I think its amazing how our brains work and how they help us to figure things out and come to conclusions. I also took the left/right brain quiz and my results were almost 50/50. But, I was predominantly Right brain. I completely agree with this because it says I’m more of a creative thinker. Also it said that I am able to see the whole picture at first and then able to work backwards to put the pieces together. I’ve always been a creative person and I fell this fits me well! Thanks again for the great article!

  5. Megan Smith says:

    Prof. Stephanie,
    I chose to read this posting because I always herd that one side of the brain was creative and one side was more logical, but I could never remember which side did what. Your post helped me see what each side of the brain does and that it is good to use both sides of the brain while problem solving.
    -Megan Smith.

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