As a middle school English teacher, I am a big fan of project-based learning. Projects provide that delicate balance between intellectual stimulation and creative challenge. Today, with the deer-in-the-headlights reality of COVID-19 and its domino effect on us emotionally, physically, and spiritually, I want to share a project much-loved by my students that you can do at home: creating a play.
The photo here shows a simple cardboard cut out for puppets to do their magic. The puppets can be easily constructed from socks, yarn—even raisins for the eyes. Much like our creativity that is emerging in the kitchen as a result of our current reality, our imagination can also find exploration through self-created theater structures and scripts!
Here’s a baseline to get you started with kids of all ages:
Choose a scene/setting
Create characters (give them unique traits/mannerisms/features, etc.)
Think of a juicy conflict
Consider whether or not a resolution is needed—cliffhanger anyone?
When you are finished with your script (or perhaps improv is the soup de jour;-), consider posting your creative production on YouTube or Instagram. Who knows? In an effort to feed your imagination, you might just stir up someone else’s!
Today my book, The Friendship Diet: Clean out Your Fridge, Get Real with Yourself, and Fill Your Life with Meaningful Relationships that Last, launches! And while there were many beautiful miracles along the path to reaching this birth-of-a-book day, none of it would be possible without Elizabeth Gilbert’s wisdom shared in Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear.
In an earlier blog post, I shared the magic-like impact of the smallest moments (“The Hidden Power of Action”). My friends, while wonderfully supportive of my idea to create a book about personal relationships and its deep connection to food, were only one significant part of the book’s manifestation. They were the fuel, the sustenance I needed to keep my creative tank full.
Elizabeth Gilbert’s BIG MAGIC book was the reason I found the courage to craft my idea into reality—the trigger to get that creative tank pumping.
Popsugar’s review on Gilbert’s colorful BIG MAGIC book cover says it all: “A must-read for anyone hoping to live a creative life.”
There were two significant areas of Gilbert’s literary therapy that made me feel the hairs on the back of my neck stand attention (in a great wayJ
She articulates the feeling of an idea tapping one on the shoulder, a whisper from the Universe to follow wherever that idea will take you. She also provides our creative souls with a cautionary tale:
“Sometimes they [ideas] do wait….But others won’t….Would you sit around in a box for two years while your collaborator blew you off? Probably not.”
The idea for The Friendship Diet kept tapping me on the shoulder, a stubborn little fella that wanted me to put aside a Young Adult manuscript that was more than halfway through its plot. When I read Gilbert’s warning words, I could practically hear the Idea for The Friendship Diet clearing his throat, ready to walk out the figurative door.
Gilbert’s second therapeutic moment…well, let’s just say, it felt like a one-on-one session.
“Maybe you fear that you are not original enough.”
Wow. How did she know??Was there a hidden camera in my psyche Elizabeth had access to??
And then, the generous-hearted and insightful Ms. Gilbert continued our private literary therapy session:
“If you are older, trust that the world has been educating you all along….We need you to reveal to us what you know, what you have learned, what you have seen and felt.”
Elizabeth Gilbert had triggered me—in a fantastic way—to heed the creative call.
To top it off, she even offers us a metaphorical Permission Slip to create!
Why did it feel like Elizabeth Gilbert was speaking directly to me? Why did it feel like she had a backstage pass, Being-John-Malkovich-style to the parts of me I keep so hidden from the world, even I don’t know it??
Because, I believe, Elizabeth Gilbert writes from a place of authenticity, from the soft underbelly that’s at the core of humanity, from a sacred space of vulnerability. You cannot read her candid musings on creativity without transforming yourself. The alchemy of her words possesses the potential to alter the inner landscape of one’s heart and mind.
If you are reading this blog piece, from the essence of my creative soul I thank you, Elizabeth Gilbert. Your openhearted sharing of BIG MAGIC provided the impetus to create The Friendship Diet and the courage to keep playing—particularly when an Idea comes to visit.
I encourage every creative soul (and we are ALL creative souls) to grab a copy of BIG MAGIC and listen to what your Ideas are saying.
A couple of years ago, I sat in a cozy restaurant with two of my girlfriends. Over a Turkish dinner of shish kebob and fresh hummus (thank you, Pasha Restaurant), my friends shared creative endeavors they were working on. For several weeks prior, the idea for a book had tapped me on the shoulder, beckoning me to embark on a literary journey.
Yet fear/ego/uncertainty had caused me to do nothing but silently play the idea in my head like an orchestra performing with the mute button on.
But that evening, hearing my friends articulating their creative endeavors, motivated me to turn off that mute button.
“I am planning to write a book about our most personal relationships. It’s going to focus on the analogy of food and intimacy.”
Wow, did I just say that? I’m actually planning, huh…
Their reactions were a mixture of surprise and wonder; their eyes lit up—they were intrigued and wanted to know more.
So I found myself sharing the music of my idea, the chords that I had played silently in my head were now streaming between us, an organic melody forming in their encouraging presence.
By the end of the meal, the once beckoning idea had suddenly morphed into an almost palpable plan. Almost.
One of my friends said, “Write it down on this receipt. Make it real.”
Here’s a photo of what I wrote:
Writing that initial title down may seem like a small act, but it felt huge. Writing it, just like speaking about the mere idea of the book, gave the idea itself momentum.
There is unseen power in the actions we take each day. The same is true when it comes to our creative endeavors.
On July 7th2020, my book The Friendship Diet: Clean out Your Fridge, Get Real with Yourself and Fill Your Life with Meaningful Relationships that Last will launch. This didn’t just happen. There were innumerable steps along the way to get to the manifestation of an actual book. Each step brought me closer to the book in the making and each step created hidden but immeasurable ripple effects.
Our lives don’t have a distinct beginning middle and end the way some might think. We are a creation that started way before our entry into this world; we create through our choices all day long that carry long-term effects that we can’t always see in this lifetime; we leave this world not knowing who or what is different because of our actions.
My book is still out in the cosmos, not yet a substance one can hold. But I know it’s out there, just as it was the moment I spoke about it over dinner with two dear friends. The fact of my book only grew stronger the moment I put pen to receipt paper—a formal commitment between the Universe and me.
When we give birth to a life, there is so much more than the birth itself. It is a labor of love from conception to manifestation and beyond. Each of us has the gift of free will to create and foster his or her own labor(s) of love. Feed that idea, nurture it and it will grow.
Never underestimate the hidden power of your actions to manifest your creative dreams.
During this pandemic, while doing our part to stay home and flatten the curve, I stumbled upon this poem my son had written at nine years of age. The genius of this assignment is its simplicity, it’s ability to extract one’s perceptions and personality preferences through present tense verbs: I see, I cry, I dream.
While many of us are still homebound, I encourage you to nourish yourself and your family members with this poetry “workout” of sorts. We have all seen the GIF pictures flooding social media now of people going into their respective fridges every ten minutes, irrationally hoping to find something new to eat.
But more often than not, we are hungry for connection and understanding—particularly during this unchartered world of COVID-19. Why not try to feed yourself and your loved ones by fostering that connection and understanding via poetry?
Here’s what I’ve created:
I am apart but never alone.
I wonder if our new normal will ever feel normal.
I hear the news in the background like a garbage compactor that never shuts down.
I see hope in the angels on the frontlines fighting to save humanity every day.
I want the pandemic to unite, not divide us
I pretend I can go to my mailbox without fear
I feel for the planet
I worry about what comes next
I cry for humankind
I understand my parents more each decade
I dream about sitting in a restaurant with family and friends
But the most important thing I do is see each day as a new opportunity