Some of you have already been stuck at home for a week or two in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19. You may be running out of ways to occupy yourself. You’ve cleaned, tried new recipes, read books, played games and binged on Netflix and Hulu. But how long can that keep you going?

Many people are compounding this problem by consuming too much news. Yes, we need to check in regularly to find out what’s changing and what we’re supposed to do. But staying glued to the news for hours every day will only keep you in a sustained state of stress.

Prolonged stress can screw up your brain, your body, and your emotional well-being. So how can you manage stress during times like these?

Here’s one way. Turn off the news, put down your phone and go get some scissors, glue and toilet paper tubes.

Here are 10 totally ridiculous creative projects to keep yourself amused and engaged until public spaces open back up. You can do them by yourself or with others you live with. You don’t have to be crazy artistic, either. Just have fun and express yourself.

Ready? Let’s do this shit.

1. Cut up old clothes to make a flag that represents your personality

Everyone has clothes they haven’t worn in centuries and never will again. Maybe you don’t know why you liked them enough to buy them in the first place or they looked great online and when you tried them on they fit weird. Perhaps you used to wear them during a time in your life when you were skinny and now you’re more voluptuous.

Or maybe, like me, you wear your clothes until they’re so messed up and falling apart you couldn’t in good conscience donate them.

I stabbed myself with an upholstery needle about 500 times, but I made this.

flag made from cut up jeans and my favorite hoodie
Freak Flag

2. Make collages using yourself and friends/family as characters

collage of Chang & Eng with our faces
Collage of Chang and Eng Bunker with our heads superimposed. Kathryn Sturm and Chris Sturm

Print out photos of yourself, family members and friends and stick them on bodies you cut out from magazines. Cut out body parts, articles of clothing and hair from fashion magazines or department store catalogs to construct absurd-looking outfits. You can find good backgrounds to use in photography magazines.

collage made from different outfits and hair from magazines
“Models in Their Natural Habitat”, magazine and photo collage by Kathryn Sturm and Chris Sturm (circa 1994)

Kathryne had an extremely strange quality in her choice of wardrobe, as she models with her lovely sister Christeena. When Kathryne was asked to name her most influential role models, she said, “How ridiculous! Rolls don’t wear clothes!”

If you don’t want to mess around with glue and X-acto knives, you can do this digitally. You don’t even need Photoshop. You can download a free and open source program like GIMP that allows you to work with layers and selection tools. Hit up Unsplash and Pexels for digital collage fodder.

Bonus points if you write captions or word balloons. Double bonus points if you post it online.

3. Create an investigation board

This can take a while and if you don’t have a giant bulletin board, you’ll need a spare wall. Also, news clippings, photos to represent victims and scary looking criminals, thumb tacks, printed documents that can look like police reports or arrest records from across the room, a map, markers, etc. Don’t forget to use colored yarn to show relationships between things.

Variations on this theme: Stalker obsession collage, “group of people to exact my revenge against” wall, CIA conspiracy board, murder victim trophy collection, etc.

4. Have a contest to see who can make the best shiv

This is the perfect way to demonstrate to yourself how limiting your options for materials can force you to flex your creative muscles. Think of what kinds of objects a prisoner has access to. Plastic wrap, toothbrushes, and other seemingly innocuous things that, in the wrong hands, could be used to make weapons.

See how many different types of weapons you can make and have someone judge them based on innovation, lethality, etc. Check out the slideshow link above if you need some inspiration.

5. Make a fake family scrapbook

It’s fun to take pictures of random people from newspapers and magazines, give them fake names like Aunt Petunia and Grandpa Maynard, and write captions to tell a story. What story will you make? Family reunion goes horribly wrong? Grandma Phyllis escapes from nursing home and carjacks a UPS driver? Cousin Fred chucks water-filled condoms at Aunt Fanny’s Bridge club?

Maybe decades from now you find it in a box in the attic and wonder, “When did that happen? I don’t remember Dad ever wearing a fishing hat.” And your younger sister has to remind you it was a stupid project you did to keep from losing your damn mind during the COVID-19 pandemic.

6. Build a puppet theater out of cardboard and make puppets

handmade puppet made from pantyhose, stuffing and clothing scraps
This puppet version of me was made by fellow artist Jen Gillette

Jen Gillette, a Drawing and Painting student I had many classes with in college, did this for an assignment in a 3D drawing class. Sadly, I never got any pictures of the puppet stage or the other puppets she made of our peeps in the class, but after the assignment was over she gave them to us and I still have mine.

Write a few scripts for shows you can perform. You can do a puppet show about literally anything. A zombie apocalypse. A landmark court case. A Xarelto® commercial. Scenes from reality TV shows. Did the wrong person win Project Runway last year? Correct this atrocity in your puppet show. If you don’t want to write your own, use plays or short stories.

Now it’s time to perform it, film it, and put it on YouTube. I guess you don’t really have to do that, but … please do that.

7. Play MadLibs and then illustrate them

You can download MadLibs apps for your mobile device and PDF versions from the site. Pro tip: you don’t have to stick to single words to fill in the blanks. The results are better if you embellish nouns with adjectives and verbs with adverbs. You can even make entire phrases work. You can write your own stories and then remove some words to make your own.

Now turn those nonsensical stories into illustrations. It’s hard to be afraid or bored when you’re trying to draw a picture to go along with a sentence like, “She killed my ionized naturally occurring rock formations that look like boobs and broke a Milky Way galaxy in a girl without a face store right before we split the recipe for butternut squash soup.”

8. Make creepy fetish dolls and hang them from trees in your yard

After the quarantines are lifted and sheltering in place is no longer necessary, fetish dolls are the gifts that keeps on giving. They could ward off undesirables, like solicitors and Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Possible materials to use: chicken bones, cheesecloth or scraps of old clothing, thread, human hair you pull out of the vacuum cleaner, dried grass, sticks you find on the ground. If you want to make white fabric look old, you can rub it in dirt or use coffee or tea to give it an aged appearance.

Hang these outside your home and watch through the window as pamphlet-carrying strangers slow their approach to your front door, eye the fetish dolls warily, and scurry off to the neighbor’s house.

9. Write a screenplay for a musical about your government’s disaster response

It’s understandable to become angry about the ineptitude of government officials. But there’s little we can do about it until election day. Until then, you can temporarily assuage your ire by scripting satirical productions.

Choreograph dance routines for them and compose twee songs about what they might be doing behind closed doors. Think about it. An otherwise dreary Cabinet meeting would suddenly spring to life if the proceedings devolved into a West Side Story-style knife fight or the Attorney General started to sing a schmaltzy love ballad to the Secretary of the Interior.

Need actors and a venue for your musical? See #6.

10. Write a manifesto

This is an art form unto itself. To put yourself in the right head space, picture yourself as a chain-smoking malcontent with a rocks glass full of bourbon and unkempt hair. (If you already are one, leave me a comment. We probably have things to talk about.)

You should be sitting in a darkened room with a lamp casting an oval of harsh light across your cluttered desk.

Now you are ready to shake your fist at either the establishment or the status quo. Or both. If you don’t have a loud, clacky typewriter, that’s a bummer. But there are many distressed looking typewriter fonts you may use to lend authenticity to your document.

Here are some manifesto writing tips to get you started.

After you’re satisfied with it, I believe the next step is to toss it out the window or leave it on a park bench for someone to find.

Brainstorm for more creative things you can do and pass them on

We all need to find activities that make us laugh and alleviate stress right now. You could think of your own list of fun and ridiculous things to do and post it to your social media circles. Frankly, everyone could use a break from news of escalating infection rates, viral photos of empty store shelves, and dire predictions about the fate of the economy.

Things suck right now, but we can all help each other cope. Instead of panicking or bitching about being bored, unleash your inner dork and share your imagination with others. It will make you feel better.

If you try any of these activities or anything else you’ve dreamed up yourself, I want to hear about it. Leave me a comment or post a link to something you made. And stay safe, everyone.

Chiara Scuro

Chiara is an acrylic painter, content writer and painting consultant. She's out to chuck a Molotov cocktail at the elitist notion that it takes some innate talent to learn how to paint. Check out her blog, The Painted Pants Lady, and learn how to paint smarter.

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