I couldn’t remember what happened after I washed ashore; I heard the panicked voices of the villagers that found me before I succumbed to the darkness encroaching on the edges of my vision. I’m not sure how much time had passed before my eyes finally opened again, but judging by the stiffness in my joints, it must have been a while. The blankets they had draped over me were scratchy and thin, but a crackling fire in the hearth kept me warm. The innkeeper was a kind, rosy-cheeked woman who always prodded me to drink a second bowl of soup every night after the doctor saw to me. It took a week to convince them I was able to leave my sickbed and make my way out into the small village.
The innkeeper sent her young stable boy to accompany me, not trusting that my shaky legs would be able to carry me back to the modest establishment. As we wandered the cobbled streets, I couldn’t help but notice the dreary store windows, empty of wares, or the way that so many of the villagers jumped at the slightest noise. When I asked my young companion, he scratched at the back of his neck and kicked at a pebble before suggesting we make our way back to the inn for supper and a story.
Over a meat pie and oversized ale the young boy told the tale of his sweet village, “It was a very different place once,” he took a tentative sip from his drink. “Plenty to eat, toys in the windows, oxen to help work the fields. People traveled from all over the realm to visit our seashores, it was a happy place to grow up. But then the orcs came- driven from the mountains by the three dragons who decimated the upper lands. They plundered our realm and cut off our trade routes. Our resources dried up. Those who could leave did, and the rest of us just do what we can to get by. They’ve made their camp just to the north, in the ruins of the old farmlands. If nothing changes, then I fear the worst for my little home.” He glanced to me thoughtfully before venturing to ask, “You are on a quest, aren’t you?”
I nodded and told him of my beautiful and daring Muse, locked away from me up in the tower of an old castle. My young friend nodded his head slowly, spearing a soft chunk of carrot and popping it into his mouth. “Well, we may have to get a bit creative in the shops, but I will try to help you gather supplies for your journey.”
In these modern times there are a million different tools at your disposal to assist with your creative endeavors. Want to make a Chewbacca outfit? You can pay an exorbitant amount for the right fabric and find a pattern online to help. Want to bake the world’s best carrot cake? There’s an app for that (and a few baking contraptions that promise to do all of the work for you while you idly sit in the kitchen). You can purchase the best markers, electronic drawing pads, pre-cut fabric with step-by-step directions to make the perfect Harry Potter quilt. But what happens when the world locks down and you have to get creative with your creativity? What do you do when you can’t just pop over to the store and any online retailer has a three-week wait? That, my friends- is when you truly learn to be innovative with your ideas. You learn to repurpose what you have to make something new. You can refashion an old cardboard box into a treat-whack-a-mole for your (very) bored dog. It was a lot of fun until he realized he could try to tip it over to get to the orange snack of his dreams (carrots have always been a favorite).
Back in the ‘old world’ I was the type of person who would research the best supplies and techniques for any project. I would stock up with far too many options before dipping my toes into the work (fully aware of any possible hacks to save a little bit of time). But the beauty of Quarantine Creativity? It requires some extra ingenuity. The name of the game this month: figuring out how to use what you already have on hand.
Today’s goal: make a mental inventory of what wares your little home-shop has and how you can work those into your creativity quest. Are there any projects you’ve had sitting around for a while? Any old items you dug up during your spring cleaning that you were planning on driving to the dump? Any stories you’ve had percolating in the back of your mind? A pile of weeds in your backyard you want to weave into a basket (no judgment, I have a heap of my own little yard demons mocking me from the window). Make a list of challenges, steal some of the ones I’m attempting from the list below, google ideas, ask a friend what random hobbies that have- you might be surprised what you come up with.
Your first mission, should you choose to accept it: create your map. My original plan had been to make a daily challenge for anyone who chose to participate; and while I’ll still post the route I’m attempting to follow- I can recognize that we are all in very different positions right now, and what will work for one person won’t even be a conceivable option for another. Some might have extra time on their hands to do a deep-dive into a project, and others might only get a couple of minutes to skim the surface, some might need to integrate other family members into their plans, or need to take a pause to deal with health issues. So think of this as more of a choose-your-own-adventure story. The world is a bit topsy-turvy right now, and no one should be obligated to hold themselves to the same standards they would have in the ‘before’ time.
My personal path is geared towards overall creativity in my life; reigniting the spark that I’ve lost in my daily adulting, so my projects will probably be all over the board for a bit. While I had hoped to complete one challenge every single day, I know that isn’t going to be realistic for me. Right now I’m working a lot of overtime that requires a ton of extra problem solving. Translation: by the end of the day my brain has shrunk down like a raisin. I’m trying to be realistic about the fact that I might have to chip away at these projects instead of deep dive into them like I want to.
A few things that made my list of creative possibilities (separated out into categories because I could):
- Writing Prompts
- novelize a scene from my favorite movie/TV show
- Pick a random line in a book and build a story off of it
- Write a short story about a modern day Don Quixote
- Think of a common saying (ex: an apple a day keeps the doctor away), and write a horror story about it
- Write a poem about how you are feeling right now
- Write a fan fiction
- Turn your playlist to shuffle and write a plot based on the songs you hear
- Culinary Creativity
- Chopped: Home Edition (Challenge Mode: Cutthroat Kitchen)
- Make a tasty treat inspired by a book you’ve read
- Create a ‘new’ mixed drink using what you have on hand (alcohol not required)
- Make a themed meal (ex: based on a movie, a place, a person) Bonus points if there is an activity afterwards
- Try to make an old favorite treat yourself from scratch (ex: Hostess cupcakes, twinkies, little Debbies, those oatmeal cookies with the cream inside)- if you are looking for some inspiration or recipes to help you: there are a ton of YouTube videos, I love the Bon Appetit Test Kitchen, but they tend to be way above my skill level
- Recreate an ‘adult version’ of a kid’s meal (chicken nuggets, bagel bites, macaroni and cheese, top ramen– extra points for this last one because making genuine ramen is heckin hard)
- Adventures in Art
- try out a cartoon learn-to-draw video
- use what I have to draw a picture of Link and Oreo (my two crazy critters)
- paint coasters with nerdy/book themes (I already had this one laying around from the pre-COVID times, but never got around to it)
- Bob Ross style class with the tools I have (honestly- probably some crayons and colored pencils)
- Make a comic strip
- string art (also something I had from the pre-Covid times and never got around to)
- Creation Station
- Cosplay using items in your house (it can be an existing character or one you created on your own- backstory is a must)
- Plan my future Harry Potter escape room (originally supposed to be a part of my birthday party, but it was cancelled when the world closed- so now I have time to plot it out and make it even cooler)
- Figure out how to fix something that broke during a fall down the stairs (only the object was hurt)
- Redecorate/organize the writing space
- Crafting Corner
- Learn to knit
- Make some Dobby-sized hats
- patch my jeans…without a real patch
- sew some masks
- make paper/fabric flowers
- learn origami
- paper airplane competition
- Lush-Us Lessons: Learn something new and write about it- can be literally anything
- Neil Gaiman master class on writing
- world history on Khan Academy
- Honey bees
- creativity and the brain
- home brewing
- (seriously, I cannot stress this enough: anything)
- The Great Outdoors
- plant something pretty
- go for a walk, no headphones, just your thoughts (also works for any form of gardening)
- Sidewalk chalk portraits
- Name your plants
- make a gnome home/fairy den
- Journaling through the Tough Stuff
- Oldie but goodie: What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail? What’s stopping you from trying anyway?
- What’s one thing you need to forgive yourself for?
- Name three things you like most about yourself? (bonus point: list three things you like about your appearance in addition to who you are as a person)
- Write a letter to your past or future self
- Name five things you are grateful for
- Hardest thing you ever went through and how it changed you- the good and the bad.
- What are your core values?
- What do you think would make you happy?
Keep creating, my friends, the muse still waits in that dragon-guarded castle, but we are well on our way to that looming mountain.