Type 2 fun


Dear Artist,

Professor of Educational Psychology at University of Connecticut, James C. Kaufman, recently offered some advice on raising creative kids. His biggest tip to parents is to resist the urge to offer rewards. “Rewards and praise may actually dissuade your child’s intrinsic interest in being creative…because the activity may become associated with the reward and not the fun the child naturally has doing it,” he writes. When you’re a child, creativity is simply playing your way through a natural process of discovery and learning. For a child, creativity is what mountain climbers call, “Type 1 fun:” it comes naturally, requires little effort, is extremely pleasurable and offers its own reward. For this reason, parents need not shower those engaged in it with effusive, generalized praise or an assessment or labelling of personality. “You are so creative,” and “I love every bit of it,” are not only unnecessary, says Kaufman, but problematic, because they actually disengage kids from their own reward centers.

Nancy, Danville, Virginia, 1969, gelatin silver print, 5-1/2 × 7 1/4 inches by Emmet Gowin (b. 1941)

Nancy, Danville, Virginia, 1969
Gelatin silver print, 5-1/2 × 7 1/4 inches
by Emmet Gowin (b. 1941)

As grown-up artists, we arrive at the understanding that creativity really does offer no reward other than the joy — now often delayed — of discovery and the satisfaction of creation. In adult life, creativity, now, at times harder to summon, suddenly slides into another type of fun: “Type 2 fun.” Type 2 begins with the best intentions, is at times challenging or even miserable while it’s happening, and is extremely gratifying in retrospect. Those mountain climbers — the inventors of Type 2 fun — embark on forced marches because they understand a secret about human striving and fresh air, the benefits of novelty and rigor and that you can get high from the edges of elective suffering. It’s a lot like painting. Creativity, if continued into adulthood, is practised by way of compulsion and curiosity. By the time you grow up, only you can compel yourself to go to the trouble of doing it, of getting your hands dirty and enjoying it.

Edith, Chincoteague, Virginia, 1967, gelatin silver print, 6-1/4 × 6-1/8 inches by Emmet Gowan

Edith, Chincoteague, Virginia, 1967
Gelatin silver print, 6-1/4 × 6-1/8 inches
by Emmet Gowin

Here’s an idea: Amongst your intersectional, intergenerational, multi-hobbied friends, take turns describing a Type 2 fun: Climbing a mountain to catch the sunrise. Learning to surf. Building a business. Painting a show. I found myself at a friend’s family meal recently where the Type 2’s were flying around the table with illuminating intensity. I realized that most of what we’re up to is Type 2. Except for when we’re not: Type 1 fun for adults is what you can imagine it is. Including bed day. And Kit Kats. There’s nothing wrong with Type 1 fun, except that those engaged solely in it grow depleted in things like the authentic self-esteem that comes from learning new skills, and doing things for yourself and others, and overcoming. Plus coping and life skills for daily, guaranteed bumps in the road, and intellectual and physical robustness. One more thing: About Type 3 fun. It is, well, a little like Type 2 fun except remove the word, “fun.”

Barry and Dwayne, Danville 1969 Gelatin silver print 5 1/4 × 6 7/8 inches by Emmet Gowan

Barry and Dwayne, Danville
Gelatin silver print
5 1/4 × 6 7/8 inches
by Emmet Gowin



PS: “Writing stopped being fun when I discovered the difference between good writing and bad and, even more terrifying, the difference between it and true art. And after that, the whip came down.” (Truman Capote)

Esoterica: Dr. Kaufman isn’t saying don’t applaud your kids. Encouragement, when specific, peppered with idea-prompting questions and laced with art supplies, is an effective adjunct to a mostly hands-off approach to an already self-motivated and creative kid. How to get others there, and/or keep them there? Normalize novelty. Apparently, seeking new games, foods, activities, genres of storytelling and art, experiences and playmates can nudge the closed off towards a habit of openness. Vary evening routines, introduce a family craft project, explore another culture, encourage intellectual engagement, take smart risks. All of this, of course, is not just for kids.

Children, Danville, Virginia, 1969 Gelatin silver print 5 1/4 x 6 11/16 inches by Emmet Gowin

Children, Danville, Virginia, 1969
Gelatin silver print
5 1/4 x 6 11/16 inches
by Emmet Gowin

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“Fun I love, but too much fun is of all things the most loathsome. Mirth is better than fun, and happiness is better than mirth.” (William Blake)



  1. “The writings of Sara Genn meet at the intersection of poetic and informative.”
    – Miles Patrick Yohnke, https://yohnke.com

    In reading this most rewarding article from Sara Genn I found myself reflecting on the successes of my two nephews, Aaron & Travis Yohnke. If you visit my website @ http://yohnke.com and enter the writing section and type in: ‘Summit.’ or, scroll down to near the bottom you’ll find a poem I wrote for his wife, Aneta. and my nephew Aaron. You’ll find a link at the bottom of the poem which describes Aaron’s current position and his remarkable achievements in California. My other nephew, Travis Yohnke. Please use your search engine of choice and type in: “Travis Yohnke – Greater Vancouver Metropolitan Area” and you’ll find his LinkedIn page. You’ll learn of his Academy Award and his Emmy Award. Also please type in : “Travis Yohnke Photography.” Like Painterskeys.com, it is time well spent. If you are curious to learn where their development came from, please return to https://yohnke.com and read the article, “Blueprint of a Man,” that discusses Aaron’s father and Travis’ uncle. If you are interested in learning about Aaron and Travis’ grandparents, my parents, please scroll almost to the bottom, and the article titled: “Strength,” as well, “Soul Mining,” and “Bridget Rose Yohnke.” I thank you for reading this comment and being apART of this beautiful community.

    As always, love is the way,

    Miles Patrick Yohnke

  2. I suppose it is Type 2 at a certain level of creation, but it’s a bit hard for me to reconcile that considering the vast majority of my Type 2 fun has been very physical and strenuous. I’m thinking of thru hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, the Continental Divide Trail, cycling across Australia, Europe, the US, New Zealand (x2), the Baja Peninsula and many backcountry climbs and ski days. Not to mention the training for all of the above. If I’m relatively physically comfortable, my mind doesn’t feel quite as challenged. Being able to walk away and get a cup of tea some how relieves the Type 2 pressure of needing to push on physically to get to food or water, to survive. Maybe I’ve confused Type 3 with 2 more often than not – or maybe I just haven’t painted a whole show worth of work under a deadline. Sounds like I might have just given myself a new goal! Thanks again, Sara.

  3. My very best teacher, Suzanne Northcott, would praise my weekly progress on a midsize abstract – my first – then finish up with “what next?” Once I got over my surprise that I wasn’t finished, my mind would begin to explore new ideas. It was the greatest type 2 fun!

  4. Is type 3 fun like . . .
    cleaning up property after a tornado?
    Character building, a broader horizon in view.
    Or helping a neighbor with yardwork/home repairs..? Not fun, but beneficial for all.

  5. My idea of fun: Sketching outside with colored Tombow markers with my non-dominant hand without my reading glasses or my distance glasses. I can sorta see, just not realistically or in detail, which is part of the FUN. Plus the markers are water soluble so you can dip them in water and rub a paper towel around and make a lovely mess! (Just be sure to use mixed media sketchbook paper that’s not too thin.)
    Happy Halloween!

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