Ep. 15: Personal Creative Projects for Deep, Meaningful Exploration with Aaliah Elnasseh


Resources Mentioned:

  • #theampersandproject

  • Big Magic

  • The War of Art

Fellow coach, Aaliah Elnasseh, shares about the creative challenges she’s developed for both her own personal growth around deeply meaningful topics and for the collective benefit of others. With her numerous, self-directed  “100 days” projects, she’s explored important themes such as spirituality and healing through the creative lens of photography, writing, and community. Aaliah breaks down how accessible and effective these creative challenges can be in unlocking important truths, developing discipline, and connecting with others.

In this episode, we discuss:

  • The illness and life evaluation that sparked Aaliah’s newfound commitment to creativity and the story behind why Aaliah wanted to pursue these creative explorations in the form of 100 day challenges

  • How creative challenges can help you develop consistency and the confidence in being able to follow-through

  • How these experiments can combat the overwhelming feeling of having too many possibilities and areas of interest

  • Increasing the longevity and value of important memories and travel through creative expression

  • Limitations and how they can be both restricting and freeing

  • Releasing perfectionism through a realistic commitment around expectations and structure

  • Starting where you are and building on that in order to grow and improve

  • The importance of having a stopping point or a reflection point in an experiment

  • Putting yourself in the posture of creativity to allow for inspiration to come, even if it’s not always profound

  • The key components of a creative challenge that make it effective and meaningful

  • Why Aaliah chose spirituality and healing as the themes of her last two creative projects and what she gained from them

  • Striking a balance between sharing vulnerably and inviting others in that process and not making vulnerability a commodity

Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.
— Ira Glass

“Looking back, the volume of your creative work is so much more meaningful because you put it out there rather than hoarding all of these ideas and only sharing a few.” - Marissa Burdett

“Me just sitting there and hoping that [my work] will get better some day, then I’ll be able to share, that’s opposite for how it ends up going. You have to do the work so that the work improves.” - Aaliah Elnasseh

“These creative projects are really valuable in that you’re setting yourself up for those ideas to flow to you and trusting that they’ll continue to keep coming. That even if you use it, that doesn’t mean you’ll be left with no ideas. There will always be new ideas, new conversations to be had, things to explore.” - Marissa Burdett

“Just showing up - that’s how inspiration comes. You don’t wait for inspiration. You create the conditions that inspiration can thrive in.” - Aaliah Elnasseh

“Being an artist or being a creative person or someone who is spontaneous doesn’t mean that I can’t also have structure and strategy in how I go about growing. It doesn’t have to be haphazard and random. I want to have a say and a real purpose and intention for where my life goes and the ways that I grow in. Why not decide how I want that to look like?” - Aaliah Elnasseh

“Instead of hoping that you will create these amazing ideas and find the right idea, it’s more about becoming the kind of person that ideas come to. It’s more about being than doing.” - Marissa Burdett

“What are the things in my life that weigh more than anything?” - Aaliah Elnasseh

“The more authentic and the more honest and willing to be vulnerable, and uncomfortable as it may be, that’s the extent that we’ll receive love. The more courageous we are, the more ourselves we are, the more love reaches our core.” - Aaliah Elnasseh

“The shame we feel about having gone through difficult experiences is really costing us our own healing and our ability to be there for one another.” - Aaliah Elnasseh


About the Guest

Aaliah is a life purpose and progress coach who works with minorities interested in leading lives of meaning and impact. Before becoming a certified life coach, she was a project manager and applied psychology researcher for a market research firm in DC. In her free time, she enjoys travel, poetry, reading, improv, photography, cheese snacks, and armchair philosophy. She currently resides in Richmond, VA, though you'll often find her in DC.