Saturday, August 18, 2012

Curiouser and curiouser. A secret play date and interview with Maryann Devine

(Rappel pour les Frenchophones: Pour le Français, ça vient! ça vient! Ce sera un plus tard ce soir après que j'ai fini de traduire l'interview avec Maryann Devine)

Last Thursday evening I finally allowed my Curiosity to get the better of me.

Often my Curiosity nags at me like one of my mess monsters negotiating for a turn on the iPod. It pulls first gently, then more insistently at my mind. Ok - my mess monsters don't really do anything gently, they just full on nag. But I liked the image...

Unfortunately often, far too often, I ignore it. At the first spark of Curiosity a Pirate takes over my mind, brandishing the 'Curiosity killed the cat' cutlass and menacing threats like 'Are you crazy? Remember what happened to Pandora!!' Sometimes though, he's just really parental and boring, guiltifying me with, 'Stop being childish and get your project done (or you'll walk the plank). You have a deadline y'know.

So I switch back into 'grown up' mode and let Curiosity melt into a distant wave on the horizon of  my mind as I struggle with writing the content to my Project (with a capital P, because it's big and amazing). Sigh.

I've been pussy-footing around about signing up for some online classes for the last month.  They sounded like delicious fun and full of curiosity - absolutely no sign of dead cats or a panic stricken Pandora. Without fail, however, each time I'd go for the 'buy' button, I'd be Pirated. Yup! My inner Pirate would rear his ugly head, asking me if I was Serious, if this was Serious, if I didn't have more conventional, more business-school ways of advancing on my Project with a capital P.

Luckily, Last Thursday was different. I escaped past my dozing Pirate, bit the bullet and signed up for an amazing class called 'The secret play date' organised by the motivational and very lovely Maryann Devine.

For most of the hour I scribbled words (you know me) that evoked qualities I'd like for my business onto a huuuuge piece of Kraft paper. The others worked on their own projects.

Anyway - I sooo loved the class that I just had to interview Maryann and find out how she'd come up with such a brilliant idea. (Secretly wishing of course that I could come up with equally as brilliant an idea for inspiring you all. Maybe soon... in the mean time - try play dating!)

Without further ado... meet Maryann and take a peek into a true Kindergarten Mind and the world of the secret play date.

Moi: Maryann, what is the concept behind your business and blog 'Kindergarten mind?' 
Maryann: Kindergarten mind is the state of being open and curious. It's a mindset that assumes creativity is the norm.
In that kindergarten state of mind, you go ahead and paint or noodle on an instrument or invent a new twist on hopscotch -- it never occurs to you that you can't. You never question your own creativity or ability.
In my imaginary kindergarten, your desk is optional. When your body needs to move, you get up and dance. When you're sleepy, napping is the logical and acceptable next step.
You can play on your own or gather up your friends.
It's a safe space, but also stimulating -- spaces that are soothing and spaces that are raucous.

Moi: Did you just 'give up your day job' on a whim and a light bulb moment or did you develop the concept over time? 
Maryann: Kindergarten Mind emerged slowly. In 2006, I left my position as director of marketing and public relations for an opera training program to do similar work as a consultant.
But my work kept evolving. I went from PR strategizing for arts clients to teaching their staff to use social media to helping artists get their amazing work noticed and now, enabling people to discover their own creativity, strengths, and resources.

Moi: Do you have a vision for the future? 
Maryann: My wide-angle view of the future is a world where we all tap into our creativity as easily as we call on our linear thinking skills. A world where we all see clearly that the answers are inside us, rather than outside, in expert hands.
I believe that *everyone* has a deep well of creativity, no matter what people may have told them, no matter what they do for a living.
We are *all* creative, and the more we bring that creativity into play, the richer our lives become. Yes, creativity makes you better at your job, but more importantly, it makes for a deeply satisfying life.
As for the future of my business, I prefer to let it unfold organically. Six years ago, when I struck out on my own, I had no inkling that I'd be teaching people around the world to look inside and tap into the creative genius we all hold, and I'm delighted.

Moi: That's very much my vision for education on a global scale too. Where did the idea of 'secret play dates' come from? Tell us more about the spark behind the idea and how you have developed it. 
Maryann: Secret Play Date is like a lovely braid woven from different converging threads. 
In 2010, I found myself with the urge to make things. You see, I spent many years pursuing a career as an artist, but I intentionally gave it up and hadn't made anything with my hands in at least ten years. 
Another thread was the fact that artists often dislike marketing their work, and dealing with the business end of the field. I wondered, what if they could do it using techniques and materials that they loved, instead of word-processing programs and spreadsheets?
And then, why limit that to artists? Wouldn't all those business-y tasks be more fun with crayons and markers? 
So I started experimenting with the idea and sharing it on my blog. Then I invited people to join me, and the Society of the Secret Play Date was born, a virtual clubhouse where we could hang out, play with our projects, and cheer each other on. 
What I didn't expect was that Secret Play-Dating could be the catalyst for so many realizations and break-throughs for each of us. We are so disconnected from creativity and play in our lives that it truly seems like magic.

Moi:  Can play dating help people who don't consider themselves creative? 
Maryann: Yes, yes, yes! It's my *mission* to help people see that they *are* creative, that we all are. 
Play-Dating can open people's eyes to their own creative potential. And Play-Dating helps you flex your creative muscles, so to speak. The more you engage your creativity, the more it becomes available to you, whenever you need it.

Moi: What's your favourite technique for getting out of a creative rut (or any rut for that matter)? 
Maryann: The thing that works best for me is switching things up. For instance, if I'm having a hard time writing for the blog, putting pressure on myself is only going to make things worse. 
So I'll temporarily switch out of writing and start drawing -- have a Play Date. Or switch from trying to write a blog post to writing out some kind of day-dream. Or go for a walk. Or do Dance of Shiva.
Once I stop trying to force the writing (or whatever), it starts to flow again.

Moi: Has play dating helped you personally? 
Maryann: Oh, yes. Enormously. I paint and draw now, with a joy and absorption that I haven't felt for many years.
I write more easily and frequently. I have these huge mental leaps forward in the internal issues that (of course) effect my business and my life. In the last two years, my work has evolved so rapidly.
When you see that you can introduce curiosity and play into your life and work, it changes everything.

Moi: As a small business owner, what does your daily routine look like? Do you have one? Are there any special rituals you follow? 
Maryann: The primary rule that I observe is that mornings are off-limits to meetings, appointments, and errands. I do my best creative work in the mornings, so I work to preserve that time for myself.
Moi: You speak of Shiva Nata? What is that exactly and how do you use it in your work?  
Maryann: Shiva Nata, or Dance of Shiva, is a body-mind practice that turns you into an epiphany machine! If Google it and find videos of people practicing Shiva Nata, you'll see moves that remind you of martial arts.
You learn patterns of movement, in Shiva Nata, and then completely un-learn them. New neural pathways are formed. You start to see your own patterns and how to take them apart and create new from old. 
My husband once said, when I was trying to describe it, that it was like patting your head and rubbing your tummy at the same time -- yes, except a bazillion times harder!
And that's what makes it so effective. 
I'm certified to teach Dance of Shiva by the #2 world expert, Havi Brooks. But rather than teach it on its own, I plan to super-charge my classes and workshops with it.  
Maryann, you are one of the most interesting and inspiring people I have ever met. The the secret play date did wonders in getting rid of that Pesky Pirate too. I owe you one ;-) Hey possums, anyone wanna come play dating with me?

 Hopefully I've tempted you to join in so here's some extra info on Maryann and her contact details:

Personal awesome-illuminator and perspective-shifter Maryann Devine creates the ideal conditions for discovery, and safe spaces for growing your creative genius. You can find her at and @maryanndevine on twitter.


  1. Just in case you hadn't heard, While curiosity may have killed the cat...

    Satisfaction brought the cat back.

  2. Your blog is inspiring. Then I saw the interview with Maryann! Oh, my, love your interviewing style, love Maryann's secret play date concept... In my former life as an educator, I was the Advanced Academics Coordinator [big name for Gifted/Talented coordinator] for the 9th largest school district in Texas. Maryann's secret play date would be perfect for the teachers of gifted students...get their teaching creativity flowing...


Can't think of a famous quote that says 'communication makes the world go round' so you 'll just have to get my clumsy way of putting it instead ;-) Your comments are precious. Thanks for dropping by!