Society tells us that hard work pays off, and I can't disagree with that, but there's more to being successful. Too many times in our lives, we think the key to doing something great is being serious about it all of the time. If we joke around about something, then we feel like we're not trying. In one of my minor, infrequent epiphanies, I realized that this is in fact the opposite of what's actually happening.
For example, my son's travel baseball team works hard at learning the finer points of the game, but during games, they were putting too much pressure on themselves to perform. So our coaches, being much more astute than me, decided to add some fun elements to make them loosen up and have more fun. They got some kids to bat left handed, started introducing new pitches to trick batters, etc. My wife was beside herself when my son got up to bat left handed, but she calmed down after he brought in the runner on third with a well-placed bunt. And the kids started winning more games.
My point is that we often put the same kind of pressure on ourselves in our everyday lives, and we don't realize that the pressure we place on ourselves actually can lower our performance...no matter how hard we work. This is especially true when it comes to creativity. How many times have you asked yourself, "How can I be more creative?" Practice? Sure. But you can't be serious all of the time. You need to figure out the "trick pitches" that make it fun to do what you do.
For me, when I'm writing, I enjoy thinking through the most outlandish scenarios that my characters could experience. Or wondering which character would be the least likely to turn bad halfway through the story...and then figuring out how to make that happen. The goal is to have fun with it. Because if I'm having fun, then it's pretty likely that my readers are going to have fun, too.
I also find it extremely helpful to do collective storytelling sessions at schools. In these sessions, I let the kids work together to develop a story idea and guide them along the way. Kids in this setting are having a lot of fun, and during the process, they are creating great stories. And of course, I'm having fun right along with them, so my creative output is also firing on all cylinders.
So if you find yourself stuck in a creative endeavor, try framing the problem in a context that you enjoy. Or try kicking around fun ideas with family and friends. You'll be surprised how being "seriously fun" can increase your productivity and creative performance.