Jack White on the Work of Creativity

In honor of the fact that I’m at Lollapalooza right now (wooooo!!!!), here’s a great video of Sunday night headliner, Jack White, talking about the work behind creativity:

“Inspiration and work ethic — they ride right next to each other…. Not every day you’re gonna wake up and the clouds are gonna part and rays from heaven are gonna come down and you’re gonna write a song from it. Sometimes, you just get in there and just force yourself to work, and maybe something good will come out.”

I think it’s really enlightening to hear about the obstacles he throws in his own path in order to push himself into a creative state of mind: “constriction to force ourselves to create.”


Thanks to Maria Popova, from the super-cool blog Brain Pickings, for sharing this video, as well as a letter on this same subject of “inspiration and work ethic,” by the legendary composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky:
Tchaikovsky on Work Ethic vs. Inspiration | Brain Pickings.

© Jaime Greenberg and discovered in play, 2012

Wanna Learn Counter Terrorism Techniques? Eat S’mores? Adult Summer Camps Have You Covered!

If you attend an adult summer camp, you might find yourself doing something like this…

True confession: I’ve never been to summer camp.

Never. Not even once. Not even a day camp.

What on earth did I do with my unscheduled summers as a child? I remember lots of running around barefoot on our farm, staying up late and sleeping in, riding my bike, lying in fields daydreaming, summer reading… I believe some baseball games were attended and watermelon seeds were spit. There were trips to Six Flags (Log Ride!).

Point being, I (unlike my husband, who spent pretty much every summer of his childhood as a camper, and two as a counselor) have zero nostalgia for the whole summer camp experience. But… I could change my mind. It’s never too late.

Turns out, there’s a whole slew of summer camp opportunities out there–for adults only–and they sound pretty fun (and persuasive). Here are some of my favorites:

Club Getaway (Kent, Connecticut) Set on 300-acres in the Berkshire Mountains, overlooking a lake, this camp offers guests the opportunity to indulge in all their favorite camp pastimes from childhood–water sports, team sports, zip lines, trapeze artistry, zumba and pole dancing, wine tasting–okay, there might be a couple new ones thrown in there. Cuisine is prepared by chefs from the Connecticut Culinary Institute, and cabins feature air conditioning, private bathrooms and daily housekeeping. Also, there’s s’mores! (And drinking!)

Covert Ops Adventure (Miami, Florida) Guests of this camp spend four days learning what it’s like to be a member of an elite Israeli counter terrorism unit. This entry falls into the category of Camps I Am Least Likely to Attend… But Most Likely To Pretend I’ve Attended. Why? Because it sounds really badass. Learn Israeli martial art Krav Maga! Shoot a gun from a moving vehicle! Practice “a proven method of kidnapping, used on terrorists in the Middle East”! Yeah, I spent last weekend at special ops camp, but I can’t talk about it because then I’d have to kill you…

Surf Camp (Maui, Hawaii) Surfing and yoga. Yoga and surfing. In Maui. Seriously, what else could you ask for in a summer camp experience? And if, like me, you’ve never even set foot on a surf board (other than inside your brain)–no problem. This camp’s for all skill levels.

Idyllwild Arts Camp (California) The offerings for adults include painting and drawing, jewelry and metals, hot clay and ceramics, Native American arts, sculpture, printmaking, writing–all in a gorgeous setting on the western slopes of the San Jacinto Mountains in Southern California. There’s hiking, swimming and dancing too. Want to bring the whole family? It gets even better: Idyllwild Arts Family Camp promises a camp experience everyone can enjoy together, including (appealingly) “no cooking, no cleaning, no driving, no hassles”

Coney Island’s Sideshow School (New York) For anyone looking to brush up on their sideshow skillz– you know, like fire eating and breathing, sword swallowing, bed of nails stunts, glass walking, straight jacket escape, snake charming… all in a safe and controlled atmosphere. Summer schedule at the Sideshow School also includes a serious-sounding burlesque master class, taught by Professor Jo Boobs. Sweet! Okay, maybe this is the camp I’m gonna pretend I’ve attended…

Space Camp (Huntsville, Alabama) A classic for “ages 7 to 107.” I visited the U.S. Space and Rocket Center for a field trip when I was in elementary school, and it struck me as a super-cool place, although I didn’t actually attend the space camp. Adult trainees at space camp alternate roles in a hands-on, interactive space mission, train on astronaut simulators like the 1/6th Gravity Chair and Multi-Axis Trainer, and build and launch a model rocket. How great to know you’re never too old to feel what it’s like to be an astronaut!

So which camp sounds the most fun to you?

© Jaime Greenberg and discovered in play, 2012

Just a tiny fraction of all the amazing ideas I heard about at the US Play Coalition conference back in February. Thanks, Sunflower Creative Arts, for sending me!

Some of the topics covered at the conference: overwhelming evidence for the necessity of play for children’s development… the future of outdoor play… our role as parents in saving play for our children… and what sort of person makes a great play advocate (hint: they’re a lot like YOU!)

We've moved to SunflowerCreativeArts.org/blog

Sunflower Managing Director, Jennifer Ligeti, and I recently attended the US Play Coalition Conference on the Value of Play at Clemsen University. We came back with heads full of practical information from the leading thinkers and advocates in the world of play.

Here are some highlights from the conference.

Good News: We’re all on the same page
The best part of attending the play conference? Being with a group of over 265 other like-minded people (parents, play practitioners, educators, medical professionals, landscape architects and others with an interest in play) who all ‘get it’ when it comes to the benefits of play for people of all ages.

The message we heard over and over from researchers, educators and child development experts should be a familiar one to Sunflower families: young children require experiential hands-on learning through play–including self-created/self-directed experiences and opportunities to play with open-ended “loose parts,”…

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A recent post I wrote for Sunflower Creative Arts’ blog. Not about play, really. But definitely about discovery. It’s certainly the truest thing I’ve written in a long time.

Read the full post here: Just part of life

We've moved to SunflowerCreativeArts.org/blog

Last month Sierra told me she wanted to visit a “graveyard.”

My first thought was ‘she’s been watching too much Scooby-Doo.’ I said, “sure we can do that,” but visiting a cemetery is never going to be at the top of my to-do list. So I put it off.

But then she asked me again. And again.

Then she told me she really needed to go see it, so she could compare it to a dream she’d had. Her dream had involved skeletons and zombies, but I sensed there was something bigger going on.

“Okay,” I said. “We’ll go.”

“Yay!” She looked at me pointedly, “Don’t forget, mommy. Pinkie promise.”

We linked our pinkie fingers together. Then she added, sort of as an afterthought. “Can we go to a graveyard where we can read Grandaddy’s name on a stone?”


Two years ago, at Christmastime, Sierra’s great-grandfather (my Grandaddy) died…

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In the Dark

Sometimes it’s easy to forget, in sunny South Florida where it’s still t-shirt weather in November, that the days are getting shorter. But even here in paradise we’re not exempt from the greater laws of nature, whether we notice them or not.

I was out running the other night at about 6:00, when I suddenly realized: it was dark. The street lights weren’t on yet, and the only illumination on my tree-lined street was the faint white glow of the sun already over the horizon and the occasional flashing of headlights as cars sped past. I slowed down, turned off my iPod and listened.

Beneath the whooshing of cars was another layer of sound: crickets and wind gently shaking oak leaves, something tiny moving in the hedges. And beneath those little sounds, silence. I realized I could barely see anything with my eyes anymore, so I closed them and took a deep breath– smelled the down-low scent of ferns and wet earth, and higher up, just a suggestion of someone’s dinner floating past me on the breeze. I smiled.

I love the dark. It’s one of my favorite places to be. A secret, safe, exciting place. A creative place, full of possibility. A place to really feel alive.

There’s disagreement as to exactly how many senses we humans have (some say as many as 30), but it should be clear to anyone who’s ever made the effort to use them all–it’s definitely more than five. At no time is this fact more apparent to me than when I’m in a dark place.

Darkness reminds me of my first photography class in college: loading black and white film rolls into processing tanks in a pitch-black bathroom next to the darkroom. I did it all by feel, closing my eyes (even less necessary here than during the night run in my neighborhood), then unspooling the film from the safety of its canister–stretching it all the way to the floor before winding it back up into the tank. In this dark room I was acutely aware of my body in space; I could feel the very contours and limits of it. But at the same time I felt more than my body–it was as if my extra senses stretched out before me, and I could see the room and its contents even more vividly than if the light had been on.

me, in the dark

There’s a reason most meditation takes place with eyes closed. Not being able to see with your eyes sends you deep inside yourself–and outside the limits of your ‘self’ at the same time.

Darkness is where we go to dream, to imagine and to create. In fact, many of my favorite in-the-dark memories are tinged with a magical quality (did that really happen or did I dream it?):

On a beach in Trinidad, under a sky filled with the light of what seemed like every single star in the universe, I didn’t really see, but felt, a leatherback sea turtle climb out of the crashing waves, dig a hole and lay her eggs. Her soft, sturdy head felt, absurdly, like the leather recliner in the house my grandparents lived in when I was a child…

Late one night, jet-lagged and sleepless in Rome, Italy, I stepped onto my balcony to listen to a lone guitar player sitting under a light on the deserted street, playing for nobody (or maybe for me)…     

It’s easy to underestimate the sheer volume of visual stimulation we encounter every day–phone and computer and TV screens, billboards, the general rush and blur of life. When you cut this out, even just a little bit, the world comes into a different kind of focus.

Like the intimate vulnerability, the easy camaraderie, people share when they’re together in the dark: around a campfire, at a coffee shop at 5:00 am, on a train at midnight headed back home. At times like this it feels like we’re all in it together, this collective dream.

Sometimes at night, after my children are asleep, I go out to the backyard and lie in my hammock. Each night is dark, of course, but always different. One night clouds move restlessly across the sky. The half-moon looks like a melon with the top chopped off, and the sound of the wind moves through the trees like the ocean, just out of sight. The next night the sky is clear and quiet: no wind, only crickets. Connect-the-dot stars cast an invisible net across the moon.

I find my eyes are closed but my imagination is open. My senses are alive.

© Jaime Greenberg and discovered in play, 2011

Guerilla Swinging

Why the world needs more swings | KaBOOM!.

As a big fan of swings, myself, I found this public art project by Jeff Waldman pretty inspiring.

The project, which is currently raising money to hang swings in Bolivia, is “about processing the root of an emotion and finding the vehicle to draw it out. That emotion [is] happiness and that vehicle, swings.”

Waldman’s isn’t the only illicit swing project happening in the world. The Red Swing Project also is hanging swings in public places, from its origin in Austin, Texas, to India, Thailand, Brazil, Taiwan, South Korea, France, Spain, Portugal, Haiti and Poland.

That’s a true testament to the universal happiness to be found in swinging, and even just the surprising joy brought on by seeing swings hung–expectantly, full of promise and possibility–in random spots.

Under the “L” in Chicago, Ill. Photo by The Red Swing Project

Sometimes it’s easy to be myself…

…sometimes I find it’s better to be somebody else.*

When my older daughter was about three or so, she’d wake up and get dressed in either one of two outfits: a tutu or a princess dress. Whichever outfit she chose, she’d wear all day, wherever we went.

Grocery store trips took forever because every nice grandma-type lady would stop us to say, “Oh how beautiful! Did you have ballet class today, sweetie?”

Of course Suzie would look blankly at the nice ladies, “No,” she’d say, and then after they left, “Why did they ask me that mommy?”

Exactly. I understood Suzie’s confusion. After all, why did she need a reason to get dressed up in her favorite costume? She was just expressing who she was on that particular day. Wasn’t that reason enough?

Watching her get dressed in the morning, I confess I was always a tiny bit envious. Wouldn’t it be cool, I thought, if I (as an adult) could express myself like that? How much fun would it be if I could wear a costume whenever I wanted!?

I think that’s one of the reasons Halloween has always been my favorite holiday. I suspect it’s probably the only day of the whole entire year when I actually could wear a tutu to Whole Foods and not look like a complete nutcase (Well, maybe. At least people would understand why I was dressed up).

Speaking of tutus… my family and I went to a Halloween costume party Friday night as the vampire cast of The Nutcracker.

(clockwise from left) vampire Herr Drosselmeyer, vampire Sugar Plum Fairy, vampire Rat Queen, vampire Clara and (of course) vampire Nutcracker

We were pretty proud of our theme; if nothing else it cracked the four of us up every time we talked about it. My husband and I died laughing each time we looked at each other in our costumes.

Besides having fun with my family, I discovered that I also enjoyed the time off from being ‘Jaime’ for a little while. I’d been in a really rotten mood for about a week and I just couldn’t snap out of it. Truth be told, I was getting more than a little tired of being inside my own head.

Enter vampire Sugar Plum Fairy. For a few hours I got to be her—proper, sweet, beautiful ballerina on the outside/wild, sexy, scary vampire (complete with fangs!) on the inside. (For those of you who know me very well, I invite you not to analyze that costume description too closely!)

People reacted differently to vampire Sugar Plum Fairy than they would to Jaime. I scared more than a few small children with my ‘surprise’ fangs, and even one grown man. Yeah, it was a good night.

By the time the night was over and I took off the tutu and the fangs, I was feeling much happier than I had in days. Even better, I was ready to be Jaime again–and, finally, ready to take myself and my ‘problems’ much less seriously.

Reason number 8 million why I love my husband... he actually went along with this! :)

It’s a shame we adults don’t get more opportunities like this to just play at being someone else for a little while. Sometimes it’s good to take a break, to force yourself into a different perspective, a different outlook on life. You never know what (or who!) you might discover.

*(Note to self: I seriously need to stop my obsessive quoting of DMB songs…  ah, but sometimes it’s just so appropriate! Plus it all fits so nicely into my grand theory on the meanings of life, love and happiness…)

© Jaime Greenberg and discovered in play, 2011

DEAR SUGAR: “Dare to inhabit the alternate universe of your original mind”

DEAR SUGAR, The Rumpus Advice Column #82: The God Of Doing It Anyway – The Rumpus.net.

I deeply adore Sugar and her writing (whoever she is*).

This is pretty much what it feels like each and every time I write something new to share with the world (all the really good stuff anyway):

“In life, we have to make ourselves. In art, we have to make that self over and over again and present it to the world. We have to put it up on the wall or down on the page or project it on a screen or allow it to resound or glide or crackle across the room. And each time we do that, we must endure the sense that perhaps all has failed, that no one wants this, that we are too much that. Too ordinary or female or obsessed with turtles or experimental or rural or Jewish or derivative or slutty or neurotic or sentimental or gay or Jesus-worshipping or Asian or emotionally restrained or outside-the-whole-MFA-thing or linguistically dense or offensively lewd or just incredibly stupid and weird and boring.

Each time!

But Sugar says that’s okay. Having the guts to go all in and truly be yourself (in writing, in living) is “more vital, more real, more sacred than anything.”

Thanks, Sugar. I (always) need to hear that!

*Okay, so now we know who she is. She’s Cheryl Strayed. :)

The Trees Grew Emotions (via Flickr Blog)

Dreaming trees. Or “If wishes were trees, the trees would be falling.” (Aaaah–now I have more songs stuck in my head!)

This just kind of captured my imagination this morning…

The Trees Grew Emotions             “He who plants a tree plants a hope” — Lucy Larcom

For more information about the history of wish trees, click here. Also, be sure to take a look at Yoko Ono’s wish tree project … Read More

via Flickr Blog

What I ‘discovered in play’ this summer

to my friends

Ah, summer is nearly over and school is about to start. No more lazy days and late sunsets and playing outside after dark… because we’ve all got places to be in the morning.

Right now–because I’m a parent, and because I work for an education nonprofit that takes the summers off from classes–this shift from slow summer do-nothing days to the fast-paced go-go-go of fall is still very much the rhythm of my life.

And, while I’ll admit to having a harder time with transitions than many of the four-year-olds I know, these last liminal days between seasons–when we’re neither here nor there in our lives, but just waiting–are always, somehow, some of my favorite.

So in honor of this bittersweet feeling, here is my list of

Things I Discovered in Play This Summer:

It was an awesome summer, by the way. One of my favorites.

1) Rainer Marie Rilke. How is it that I never read Rilke before this summer? Maybe I just wasn’t ready.

“Have patience with everything that remains unsolved in your heart. Try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books written in a foreign language. The answers cannot now be given to you because you could not live them. It is a question of experiencing everything. At present you need to live the question. Perhaps you will gradually find yourself experiencing the answer.” -Rilke

If you read Rilke, start with his letters. His language is beautiful and his words and wisdom are so true, and often painfully hard won. I connected with some of his lines in such a tactile way, I wanted to pull the words right off the page and squish them up in my hands like clay, to fully impress them into my body.*

I understand he is also quite the amazing poet.

*I reeeeaaaallly love words. Your reading experience may vary. ;)

2) Ralph Eugene Meatyard. An amazing photographer. I discovered his works during an all-day (adult) play date at the Art Institute of Chicago. An optometrist working in Lexington, Kentucky–who originally took up photography as a hobby, like many parents do, to take photos of his children–his works are surreal, literary, personal and so far ahead of his time. The way he uses tropes like masks and dolls and children… to my mind, his photos should be creepy. But they’re not. They’re oddly beautiful. Just magic.

In this New York Magazine review, published back in 2005, Meatyard’s friend, poet-scholar Guy Davenport calls Meatyard’s photographs, “short stories that have never been written.” Mmmmm. So good.

3) Play is whatever you make it. Just be sure you take the time to make it. I kind of lost myself in my first few overwhelming, sleepless years of motherhood. Anything I might have wanted (even a few quiet minutes alone) seemed to pale in comparison to the awesome and very real responsibility of growing, feeding and nurturing another human being. But these days I’m definitely getting myself–and my sense of play–back. This summer was a lot about that. There are certain things in life that make me smile just thinking about them. So now I make the time to do them. I know, in the long run, this makes me a happier person–which has to then make me a better parent.

4) I have some really wonderful, beautiful (and yes, fun!) people in my life–friends–who hear me and ‘get’ me and know me and understand me, people who have experienced me at my best and my worst and still love me anyway. That’s pretty amazing.

5) Possibly, I know all the words to just about every Dave Matthews Band song ever written, AND I can successfully use them in both casual conversation and as formal literary references. (How’s that for hardcore!?) Also I’m pretty much convinced, the meanings of life, love and happiness can all be described by remembering the lyrics to DMB songs.

6) Hot saki is just generally a bad idea… But picnics (with Stravinsky, at Ravinia) are very, very good. People make both ice cream and margaritas out of my favorite fruit, the avocado. Orange Fanta, toasted pb&j and Waffle House egg sandwiches (with pickles!) are all just as goood as I remembered. There is such a thing as frozen mango kefir–and it is divine! And I NEED my very own deluxe built-in cappuccino maker in my kitchen. I just… need one.

Starfruit Cafe frozen kefir stand at DMB Caravan Chicago

7) (Mindfully) playing through your worries and problems can help you ‘grow up’ in a lot of ways, even if you’re already a grown-up. And it’s more fun than therapy.

So friends, what did you discover in play this summer? I hope it was wonderful.

Here’s to many more discoveries for us all, many opportunities to follow your passions, only the best in life–and, wherever and however you find it, much much happiness.

© Jaime Greenberg and discovered in play, 2011