Suleika Jaouad Inspired Me

It’s day one of Create 31. As I mentioned in my previous post, each day during May, a few friends and I will attempt to devote at least 15 minutes to an individual creative project. In my case, it’s primarily working on posts for this blog. I’m not a fast writer; I often get bogged down in background research – that is, I often become more involved in a subject than needed for a post. As such, I’m not holding myself to an impossible (for me) standard of posting anew everyday. But I do have a concrete goal: to publish at least 12 posts this month.

Today I reveal my inspiration for Create 31. Earlier this week I listened to TED Radio Hour’s April 24 podcast called “Meditations on Loneliness.” The last segment (beginning at minute 38:14) features Suleika Jaouad, who talks about her long-term hospital isolation during her battle with leukemia, which included a bone-marrow transplant. She was in her early 20s, just out of college, when her life was interrupted for years of medical treatment. She was a “bubble girl” unable to leave her room, attended only by hospital staff in protective gear.

To help her through this harrowing experience, Jaouad recruited family and friends to join her in doing an individual creative act each day for about 15 minutes (or more) over 100 days. Her mother, for example, painted one tile a day, and her dad chronicled his childhood memories. She returned to journal writing, aspects of which appeared in a New York Times column called “Life, Interrupted.”

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Fast forward to April 2020: Jaouad, cancer-free at age 31, took refuge from Covid-19 in her parents’ attic, where she started a new project called “The Isolation Journals.” Tens of thousands of people from over 100 nations signed up to receive daily email prompts for journaling during the month of April. They wrote about their isolation experiences and feelings, along with other topics, like this prompt: “write a letter to your younger self.”

Create 31 combines aspects of both of Jaouad’s projects: to engage in a creative act each day and to limit the project to one month, the 31 days of May. After that, who knows? It’s worth noting that as our small local group launches Day 1, Jaouad’s enormous international group begins Day 31. Yes, she and her team have decided to keep the “Isolation Journals” going, this time for 100 more days, the timeframe of her first project.

If you’re interested in joining the “Isolation Journals” group and receiving daily prompts, you can subscribe at https://mailchi.mp/suleikajaouad/onward. To learn more about Jaouad, visit her website at https://www.suleikajaouad.com/. To learn more about Create 31, leave a comment on my blog, and I’ll get back to you. I also anticipate posting about some our Create 31’s experiences from time to time.

Stay safe. Stay healthy. Protect others.

Photo: Sunset on Anna Maria Island, FL, Feb. 2017. This photo, one I took, suggests to me the peace a person can find in creative solitude. 

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