Most of us have an absolutely insane amount of spare time and energy right now. How do we channel that? Yesterday I saw my first shouting match between people who were out walking, one of whom didn’t think the other was giving them enough space. Both of them had valid points, but surely descending into profanities while screaming at the top of their lungs didn’t make them feel any better. Tensions and stress levels are high, and while walking helps, there have to be other outlets available for us. My other outlet was drinking, but this is my 16th day sober and I need to find something to fill my evenings that isn’t loafing on the couch watching the same Netflix series over and over again.
Enter: making things. I don’t know about you, but I used to love making things! My mom kept all these terrible Christmas tree decorations that I made and I kid you not there are about 20 of them; ugly, shiny, gaudy little pieces that were made special because I put some effort into them (my favourite is a tiny creche I carved out of teacher’s chalk with a toothpick…). I could whip up all sorts of crafts without the need to check online to see step by step instructions, I just wanted to be able to say “I made that” when someone commented on it.
Like many other characteristics, making things deteriorated as I got older. First I became “too cool”, then “too busy”, then “not interested” and so on and so forth. Even with cooking and baking I would do the bare minimum – for baking that became more of a health choice, since I would eat every single baked good on the same day as making it. But now that we’re encouraged to stay at home and are needing to do something with this time on our hands I urge you to try to make anything again.
For me it was actually pretty easy to get started because of my job. Teaching Kindergarten online is not ideal. But I have tried to come up with some cool projects that will keep the kids busy and be reasonably hands off for the parents. One of those was to learn how to make a little stuffed pillow or animal. I have never made one before, but I vaguely remembered how to sew. I cut out a little heart pattern and gave it my all, and at the same time made a step by step instructional video for the kiddos. What emerged was the lumpiest, ugliest heart-shaped pillow I have ever seen. I love it. My kids posted pictures of what they made and they are so incredibly proud. It’s probably one of the most valuable items of work I have ever asked them to do, purely based on their reactions.
With things like Pinterest and other social media platforms we see beautiful creations and kind of expect to be able to make something of that quality immediately. Maybe you get lucky and do it, but most of the time it will not look/taste particularly amazing. Who. The. Fuck. Cares?! Make it all ugly, unleash that hidden creative beast inside of you. Use up old clothes to make cloth napkins and ugly stuffie things. Make something in the kitchen and see if it works – try again if it doesn’t. The rise of the “Nailed it!” comedic fails has been helpful in seeing that we are not all amazing creators, but that is posted for the likes, not for the satisfaction of having made something. And you never know, maybe the next will turn out to be something pretty special.
I plan on making a lot of ugly things, because I have a lot of raw materials right now. I’m going to start with sewing – maybe a new Christmas ornament for my mom’s tree? I’m definitely going to make an ugly workout, because I’ve been scared to do bodyweight exercises without someone telling me what to do. I’m going to crack open the watercolour paints I was given by a student three years ago and try to paint something, just because I can. Screw perfection, make something ugly. And feel good about it.