Making it through Tough Times

This has been making the rounds on social media this week:

It’s funny, and yet… it’s not so funny. Many Makers’ homes look a lot like that already, and it’s a reflection of one particular way we cope with stress and crisis. We make stuff. Our current bewildering global health catastrophe is no different: makers everywhere are stepping up, hunkering down, sewing, building, crafting, singing to their neighbors, DIYing necessary medical equipment. When everyone is stuck at home (you’re staying home right now, right?! That’s the only way to flatten the curve and ensure our overburdened medical systems don’t collapse)… when we’re all stuck at home, disconnected from much of our support network, facing anxiety, uncertainty, and disappointments, how are we responding? What can we do? What should we do?

We should pay attention to intelligent, science-based news sources. We should take precautions to protect our communities. And, at times, we should step away from the terrifying news, slip into our sewing rooms or music rooms (well, at least some little nook in your house you can go to blare your trumpet without incurring glares from your siblings or roommates!), our workshops, our gardens, our kitchens… and make things. We should make things.

Some yarn that Charlotte might have produced….

You might choose to make practical things: raid your pantry for forgotten ingredients so you can get creative with meal planning in this time of minimizing shopping trips. Or you could choose to use your sewing skills to help sew protective masks for hospital staff. You might design and create a board game to play with your family while you’re sheltering in place. Or you might decide to cheer your neighbors or grandparents with impromptu musical performances, like we’ve seen from Italy and Spain.

My husband’s homemade sauerkraut and salsa

Or perhaps this time is too raw and scary, and your making needs to be more isolated from the front lines, more private and personal. And that’s OK, too. Scientific studies have proven the physical, mental, and social benefits of creativity and creating. It reduces stress. It allows us to process challenging events. It keeps us mentally sharp as we age. But Makers everywhere can speak to the ineffable benefits of Making, as well. In my Morris Award acceptance speech, I spoke about how Making fights entropy, the breakdown of systems over time, the tendency of things (everything!) to collapse into chaos and disorder. Kind of what it feels like is happening right now, yes?

Right now, making has even more immediate and practical benefits. It can take our minds off the crisis for a while, and it can help pass time we might otherwise spend consumed with worry. It can help distract you, it can keep your kids busy, it can entertain us in novel ways as we’re learning to live apart… together.

Making is an affirmation

Making is taking Positive Forward Action, as my first editor liked to say—putting a steady stream of positive energy into the universe: adding beauty, expressing your love, helping others, taking a step that says, Everything else is falling apart, but here. I made something. And that is a powerful act of rebellion against entropy, a bold statement of belief and hope in the face of crisis. Whether you choose to share your making or keep it personal, it’s worth doing.

If you’re a regular Maker, your home is most likely already filled with plenty of supplies to keep you busy right now. But if it’s not, this probably isn’t the time to be buying more. It’s a great time to Make Do! Figure out what you can make with what you have. As my niece says when rescuing things from the recycling bin, ART PROJECT! You might take this time to learn a new craft–or you might fall back on comfortable hobbies you know well. I’m currently pretty swamped with work, with a new book coming in a few weeks, a new book due right before that, and another deadline this month—so my recreational Making has been scaled down to things I can do without much concentration, when I can grab a few minutes here and there. Anything harder than a little hand stitching just feels too epic right now. But even just that little hand stitching makes me feel more settled. Embroidery is the craft I turn to most often in times of stress and grief, and it’s always been able to soothe and comfort me and bring me back to myself.

A little hand quilting from this week

Making can help. It can help you. It can help your community. It might even help the universe. So pick up your paintbrush, break out your drum set, start a journal about this unprecedented historical event. Make cakes, make gardens, make paper chains. Make plans. Make solutions. Make vaccines and ventilators and more good science. The universe is counting on Makers to save us, in ways big and small.


3 Responses to “Making it through Tough Times”

  1. Judy Bunce

    Great suggestion.
    I got out some supplies and have an idea to work on.
    Will keep me busy.

  2. J. Hyde

    Wonderful, hope-filled food for thought…and action! Making plans to finish some of my MANY UNfinished art projects! Lovely post. Thanks!

  3. Laura Moore

    This is a wonderful post! Thank you, especially for the link to how to make protective masks. I’ve been trying to figure out a design on my own. This is so much easier! Brava!


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