How to Find Creativity and Purpose in the Face of Adversity | Suleika Jaouad | TED

How to Find Creativity and Purpose in the Face of Adversity | Suleika Jaouad | TED

Suleika Jaouad's Documentary, "American Symphony"

  • The documentary initially aimed to follow Jon Batiste's composition of a modern symphony with diverse musicians.
  • The project shifted focus to documenting Jaouad's leukemia relapse, Batiste's Grammy nominations, and their personal journeys amidst challenges.
  • Jaouad emphasized the importance of trust and communication with the filmmaker to ensure creative alignment and respect for comfort levels.

Suleika Jaouad's Creative Process

  • During extreme illness and isolation, Jaouad found creative inspiration by embracing uncertainty, surrendering control, and exploring new forms of expression like watercolor painting.
  • Jaouad's experience with her first leukemia diagnosis led to her "Life, Interrupted" column in The New York Times, where she shared her story and connected with others facing similar challenges.
  • After completing treatment, Jaouad felt lost and embarked on a 100-day road trip across the US to meet people who had written to her during her illness, which helped her process her experiences and move forward.
  • Her book, "Between Two Kingdoms," chronicles her journey through cancer and its aftermath.
  • During the COVID-19 lockdown, Jaouad launched "The Isolation Journals," a free newsletter featuring daily essays and journaling prompts to help people transform isolation into creative solitude and connection.

Journaling as a Creative Tool

  • Jaouad emphasizes the importance of feeling and embracing all emotions, rather than developing a thick skin and avoiding discomfort, as a way to fully experience life.
  • Journaling can be a generative and inspiring tool for creative expression, regardless of its beauty or grammatical correctness.
  • Journaling prompts include writing with your non-dominant hand and a big scrawl across the page, starting with "I don't want to write about…" and listing just 10 snapshots from the last 24 hours, stream of consciousness.
  • Curiosity is a gentler and more honest way into the creative process than focusing on finding your "capital P" Purpose.
  • The most surprising and impactful creative work often comes from pure play and exploration without regard for if it's good or bad.

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