The Joy of Water


Do you remember as a kid how water was like a magnet, how even the smallest puddle would be pulling you over, how any kind of water would instigate unrestrained playfulness? Do you remember how much fun and excitement water would spark in you? Of if not, do you today at least notice how kids of all kinds—as they indeed always have—cannot resist playing with water?

For some time now, I have been pondering about how human’s interaction with water so much is a picture of how we nurture our creativity. It starts with unstructured excitement when we are kids, excitement that just spurs our imagination, whether we talk about playing with water or other creative activities. In the beginning we don’t feel like we have to interact or be creative in a certain way, we act completely uninhibited and we don’t feel intimidated by neither water nor the creative process. Moreover, we don’t require anything but water itself—whether a bucket of water, a puddle or the ocean breaking on a beach—and then of course ourselves to venture into a imaginary world where nothing but play and joy exist.

Then as we grow older and mature some of that excitement vanishes for most of us, we «learn» how to handle water or creativity, how we are supposed to behave around water or photograph or draw or write or… you get the picture. Some of us even get completely estranged to water or the creative process. In worst cases, some even develop hydrophobia. We lose the playfulness and the unrestrained imagination that originally was set off by water.

Or, some go the other way. They start to explore water in more elaborate ways, start to bring in different tools in the interaction with water. We start out maybe in a small rowing boat, then maybe we discover the beauty of the underworld by diving, we learn to sail, or buy faster boats to explore shores further away—or just the speed we can travel over waters.

Either ways, I think we lose some of that pure playfulness close contact with water that the child in us so delightfully discovered in the early years. As grownups, either we stay away from water or we need all kinds of expensive machinery to explore it. We stand to lose that pure joy water used to trigger in us.

I don’t say that machinery is bad in any way. It can both expand the experience and be limiting. However, whether we find excitement in using a speedboat or a kayak or just swim around in the sea, I think it’s important to hold on to that first childish feeling of freedom and unrestrained playfulness that we so much enjoyed as a kid.

Water can be used in so many ways. It’s only our imagination that limits our interaction with water. We can play like a child with water, we can swim in water, we can use water to develop our competitiveness, we can use water to explore foreign shores, to experience speed or just the splash of sea in heavy wind. Just as creativity.

So maybe it’s time to reset our minds. If you want to develop your creative skills and abilities, maybe you should try to be more like the child you used to be. Explore water with no deliberate purpose, just be playful and have fun. Maybe you should let the child in you flourish, not let learned approaches of how things are supposed to be, restrain you. Let the child lose again.

Just to clarify. The use of water as a way of understanding creativity is nothing but a metaphor. By that, I don’t mean that anyone with hydrophobia, cannot be creative! I have a sister that have such fear of water that she will never enter into any water deeper that her knees—well hardly above her ankles. She even resist taking ferries because they sail on water. She is nevertheless one of the most creative persons I know.

So when was the last time you let the child in you play with water?


76 thoughts on “The Joy of Water

  1. Dear Otto, you are carriying me back to my childhood when I tried for summers to improve my somersaults from the springboards of always increasing hights!! I absolultely loved playing in or with the water and I still greatly enjoy being connected with water. Thank you so much for your wonderful awareness riser.:) Very best regards Martina

  2. I feel the Biggest Natural Connection we can have with Water, is when it Rains. To play with water, falling from the skies is wonderful.
    I Love to Swim, but due to a mistake in my swimming classes and me almost drowning with my tutor busy somewhere else, I lost the joy of swimming.

  3. This pasthma week I was lucky enough to spend 3 days alone in a friend’s lake house. I got to wander the lakeshore and woods with my camera. I also got to meet a blogging friend who is a wonderful photographer and who gave me some tips which opened a whole new world of possibilities. It was so much fun.

  4. This brings back wonderful childhood memories for me, too. I still get excited by all kinds of water, whether it’s a brief rainshower, a puddle, a pond, or an ocean. I think I need to write my own blog post about this. Thanks for the inspiration, Otto!

  5. An interesting metaphor Otto. I still get very excited when I see the sea and when I went into the water visiting Hanne and Klausbernd last time, floundering in the waves trying to swim, or at least float in the waves with my crutches, I was laughing, really laughing, not just inside but outside too. It made me feel alive and yes, just like a kid again. It’s bringing a smile to my face as I type. Bringing that to the creative process, as you say, can only be a good thing no, not just a good thing, a great thing. I will endeavour to remind myself of that moment next time I’m out taking photographs. As always, an excellent article that we can all learn from. 🙂

    1. I got excited just reading your account on getting into the waves. I love body surfing and throwing myself into waves, it’s something I have done since I was a kid. Thank you for sharing you delightful experience, and equally thank you for the lovely words.

    2. I’m so happy you had this beautiful encounter with seal and the water, Adrian. We have to make sure you get lots of opportunities next summer! 🙂
      Hanne x

  6. I think that having a childlike approach to many things is a good philosophy and great for developing creativity and knowledge – too many of us just lose the wonder of exploration. I guess I’m very lucky as I work with young children – you’re forced to get stuck in and lose inhibitions!

  7. Hello, I am so happy you wrote about this subject. Water is essential to my daily life. Water in the shower makes me feel I am inside a cave with a waterfall. I think since we are adults and we don’t go jumping on water without the risk of being called crazy, soo what??! Then I take this time in a more deep way perhaps, while taking a shower, I completely disconnect, I even forget I am in a shower! To me it is like a source of energy , I close my eyes and feel the same happiness.

  8. This is a wonderful analogy. You are so right in seeing the similarities. When I first started photography I was afraid if making mistakes, of drowning. Now I have fun, but sometimes that seriousness creeps in too. I have to remember to be free with it, have fun, and explore.

  9. This is a great metaphor for the creativity. I’ve heard something along this thought that in order to be good with something you need to “play” with it and it literally means playing.

      1. I was thinking about this some more after reading this post. You are right “play” intrinsically means let go any responsibility. That lets go our mind to go where it would be bounded by rules. Great post!

  10. I remember when I was a child, I would be allowed to swim in the lake when the temperature reached 10C. Now the water has to be 25C before I want to play. That’s what life can do to you 🙂

  11. Water as always been magical for me. I find it to be invigorating, healing and comforting. Being born and raised a Niagara Falls girl I always had a connection to the power of water. I have never gotten tired of seeing Niagara Falls. When I was sick, I lived at the beach and somehow that was the happiest I have ever been. I know my proximity to water is why I healed so well. Now I walk every day around Frenchman’s Bay and along Lake Ontario. Every day is a new adventure. The water creates that for me. It is always different and always enchanting. It looks and feels different every day. It is my own personal masterpiece created just for me everyday.

  12. Oh yes – puddle jumping. Kids just have to jump in a puddle whenever they see one, and you can see and hear the joy that goes with it. I am sure you are right that creativity is nurtured from a very early age through play with water, paint or some other substance or object. My wife was a primary school teacher (although she retired from that work when children arrived) and she and our very young children loved nothing more that immersing their hands in saucers of paint and making hand prints on huge sheets of paper. They got in a real mess but there was so much joy every time they did it. We kept their art and watched it morph into ‘portraits’ – a round body and four sticks for limbs – that became more like humans over time and years. Both have developed strongly as artists. My daughter is now a talented painter and my son with a degree in Graphic Design is now a Creative Director.
    I like to think that the way we nurtured them through childhood with paint and games and eventually printing in the darkroom helped them on their creative paths to adulthood and to where they are now. Thanks for another great post that reminds me us of how our creativity begins.

    1. And thank you for sharing how you encouraged your kids to become or stay creative. What you tell only increases my belief in that we need to be less restrictive and restrained in our creative endeavors.

  13. An interesting analogy Otto. My creative batteries are re-charged by the sea! We live at a location that is just about as far from the sea as one can get in the UK but it is essential for me, and for my wife who writes, to visit the coast two or three times each year.

  14. It’s so important to me to be near water as often as possible. I don’t necessarily relate to my time at the ocean as playful, but each and every time I am at the beach I have strong memories of childhood spent at the seashore with my grandparents. I also agree with Louis who relates that his creative batteries are recharged by the sea. That’s definitely true for me as well. I’m playful with my grandchildren and one of my priorities with them is to encourage their creativity–always! Recently I’ve started handing them my camera and we’re having some real fun with that!

    1. Yes, water and sea is invigorating, isn’t. Of course you live by the big ocean and that makes it even more special I would believe. Handing out cameras to kids is always a fascinating study. They have such an intuitive understanding of photography.

  15. i don’t like water, nooo… my brother tho is so scared of it, he puts a facecloth over his face when he’s in the shower! but as far as being creative goes… hmmm, maybe you are right!

  16. I am fascinated by adults who have not lost the child inside them. I see this in the very elderly, they find joy in the most simple acts and never seem to lose their enthusiasm for beauty and life in general. I love this photo of the children, they are still beyond the cares of the world. I recently built sand castles on the beach with some kids, just being in the moment was truly miraculous. We must grow up it’s true but as you so eloquently state, it is wonderful to be able to draw on the child in our heart and mind that we need to hold on to and nourish.

    1. One of the important lessons from children’s play is that they are so completely in the moment, as you. But, yes, growing up is also part of being humans, but it’s not bad to keep a part of the child with us.

  17. I love to watch people having fun in the water, but I’ve never been that keen to actually go in the sea or swimming pool myself, even as a child. I love a water view from my home, though, and also enjoy boat trips. I think I take after my dad. He was a sailor on submarines during the war, but couldn’t swim a stroke. 🙂

  18. Your comparison between the joy of water and the joy of creativity is suggested by your own blog title: “In Flow”!

    There’s another aspect I thought of. When water is abundant, play is easy, but when water disappears, as in a drought? Then there’s no playfulness: only anxiety, and an almost obsessive longing for rain. When creative droughts set in, playfulness dries up as surely as ponds in a drought. That’s when we need the skill of a rainmaker, to bring the puddles back to our lives.

    1. Very well said, Linda. Of course life on earth depends on water, so in that respect water is essential. Creativity is not quite as important, not on a physical and biological sense, but I think in many ways it’s just as important for our minds and our own development.

  19. oooooh I am so glad your blog exists 🙂 and I’m even happier you blogged about water because to me it is one of the purest, life-giving elements that represents emotions, power and gentleness. Thank you for placing your focus on creativity, Otto. I live in a society where creativity and artists are looked down upon so going against the current (pun intended) thus finding other creators who do the same is very heartening. Thank you for writing!

  20. The joy of water…there are those of us who need to see it and feel it as much as possible. For me, as you mention above, it is a sense of both calmness and creativity (from one comes the other). I’ve a friend of mine from China who said I crave water as my astrological sign is dry and there is where my need for water was derived. Conversely, the opposite was true of my girlfriend at the time and she craved dry/desert and it was clearly this interesting difference/preference between us. A few years ago I found my father was similar ~ he preferred the high desert to water, but said I really take after my mom who craved water as I did. Seattle and HK are my two homes, and water plays a big role in my happiness in both places. I’m off on a tangent, but this post got my mind moving 🙂

      1. Yes, Chinese astrology is something else ~ within my birth symbol, and the lat./long. of where and when I was born, they can determine different elements to your personality. It is amazing how deep set this is in their culture, quite beautiful. Being very dry, water is simply a must for me. 🙂

  21. The wife and I love this blog and appreciate the creativity and imagery you provide. If you ever decide to take your blog to the next level by offering a Mobile App version my company Zenlight would love to help, we appreciate the hard work you have put into this blog and wish you all future success in business and in life.
    Thank you for your time, it is the most precious thing we all possess.

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