45 Comments
Mar 2, 2022Liked by Courtney Martin

This line made me laugh out loud: "I mean the slow, pleasurable accumulation of Goodwill sweaters and blouses and that constitutes my 1970s-librarian-who-loves-hip-hop-and-rides-horses signature style."

I first visited Bethlehem in the West Bank in 2005, not long after Israeli tanks and PLO resisters had faced off in and around the Church of the Nativity. At the other end of the street were young Palestinian students and their mentors delving into jewelry making, film production and drama as a way to enhance and underscore the power of creativity in a time of occupation.

In my own life - a good loaf of sourdough bread (even before the pandemic), a well chopped pile of wood for the woodstove, the patient collecting of coffee mugs from places I love, listening to quirky radio programs from Nova Scotia, the refinishing of an antique table, and an occasional reflective piece on social media are a few of the things that keep me alive and joyful amidst the pain, confusion, anger and war all around.

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Mar 2, 2022Liked by Courtney Martin

In the past month I've started to film myself doing house renovation/little building projects and putting them on YouTube. Mainly just my family watches them. It sounds (and is) pointless to stay up late after my daughter is asleep in order to spend hours and hours editing and putting together the videos, and the whole thing definitely feels weird to focus on while there is so much suffering going on. That said, it also has provided me with a way I can channel creativity and excess energy into building/making things and then being able to share and explain them to others, and it's been strangely profound in how much it has shifted my overall mental state and capacity to deal with the rest of the world. I think you described it perfectly when you wrote "your hands are working on something and this is so comforting after your brain working so hard on so many terrible things". Thank you so much for writing about this.

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Mar 2, 2022Liked by Courtney Martin

Thank you for these thoughts. I have been beating myself up for not writing, which is my usual outlet and release. I am grateful for your perspective that these are difficult times and my sewing or mandalas or even the embroidery I have been yearning to start are creative outlets as much as my writing. I really appreciate your perspective to recenter and ground me in this crazy world!

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Mar 2, 2022Liked by Courtney Martin

Good Morning! This struck me today, and while I don’t normally comment, I had to speak to truth. I am retired, and I fill my day with painting pictures and cross stitch, flowers, and tending to friends who reach out with their fears and concern over the state of our world. I also watch videos of my grandchildren that my daughter sends on a regular basis. Are the weird, maybe - but I am tending to me need for meditation. The stroke of the brush, the up and down of the needle, are very ZEN-like, and they calm my soul. That is the opposite of violence - it keeps me from throwing something at the television, and lifts me from depressive thoughts.

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My brother, Ben, made this weird, small project, which shows his memory of my mom at the sewing machine when we were kids, making her weird, small projects. It really moves me: https://scratch.mit.edu/projects/646805603

Also, my 6yo and I are trying to visit a new museum every wednesday. And I made a weird little book based on texts between myself and a close friend during the pandemic for her :) I also have to give credit to Christie George, who first gave me the idea that this was a category worth exploring, which you do so beautifully here.

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Mar 2, 2022Liked by Courtney Martin

I loved this article so much. Weird small projects are what have gotten me through this pandemic. Recently, I started dressing up in glamorous outfits and taking photographs. My friend is an aspiring photographer and I am an aspiring stylist (and that’s my weird little project because it’s not my daytime job) and so this has been a collaborative effort. It’s equal parts a healthy distraction from pain and a way to face it. Our outfits/photographs/backdrops have meaning to us. They allow us to make sense of all that has happened.

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Mar 2, 2022Liked by Courtney Martin

I just loved reading this so much. I am researcher, and the project that gives me the most life is about creative parents and how they make space for their creativity. And the findings have just been so fascinating. What you wrote about "There’s a part of me that finds this list deeply shallow in a time of death and inequity..." that's such a key finding in my work -- that people, women in particular, struggle with their work being "useful" but also get so much joy from those "small, weird projects."

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Mar 2, 2022Liked by Courtney Martin

I loved this article! I love small things that I can create that will bring joy not only to myself but to other! Currently I am knitting a baby blanket (the pattern I saw our granddaughter Maya wrapped in when she was a baby. I am knitting it for a little baby born at 27 weeks, airlifted to Seattle Children's NICU and not returned to "her" hospital with hopes of going home in the coming weeks. Each stitch is done with hope for her, a little prayer for her and a wish that she will grow up to be a wonderful and giving person. Creativity puts peace and joy in my heart ... even when the world is falling apart!

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Mar 2, 2022Liked by Courtney Martin

Deirdre Colgan Jonesjust now

Also: if anyone here is interested I am teaching an online mindful creativity course, beginning in April, through Zoom out of the Evanston Art Center. It’s always lovely to have west coast residents join us in this virtual space. ☺️https://www.evanstonartcenter.org/school/v0417-collage-meditation-history-and-practice-art-life-ages-16

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I love this post so much. I am finding that is in fact the super small projects and accomplishments that are creating such joy - which helps to balance the scale of all that feels so horrible. I've been making Albums in iPhoto of our family year long sabbatical that we returned from just months before the pandemic started. Perusing the photos, reliving the experiences with our 2 boys, seeing the world as it was pre-2020. Thank you for helping me see how heart healing this process is.

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Mar 5, 2022Liked by Courtney Martin

I am an occupational therapist and this exactly the premise that the profession is based upon. Throughout history dating back to Roman times

across continents, engaging in meaningful occupation is what “cured” illnesses. When we engage in something meaningful we benefit emotionally, physically and spiritually! Mastery of something is felt and through that we feel a sense of agency as well as belonging to something greater.

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Mar 5, 2022·edited Mar 5, 2022Liked by Courtney Martin

I shared this with Sarah recently -- it's a simple animation project, with some randomness that makes it a little unpredictable. It's a portrait of my mother sewing, as I remember from my early childhood. I made it in Scratch!

https://scratch.mit.edu/projects/646805603/

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I love this so much (and your writing is so wonderful!). Two things come to mind - one is a hearty amen to your goodwill ventures, mine have gone decidedly in a punk direction which I'm trying to pull off in an authentic way at 47 years old, ha. :) (I also shaved half my head? Yikes. But I love it.) The other is a strange one, but after being pretty social media adverse for so long, I finally launched an account for my business and have really stayed with the intention of - what is fun for me here, what do I really want to say, and how can I arrange these stories in a virgo style bordering neurotic organization that feels beautiful and creative. Having an "audience" has pulled poetry out of me and a flow of words that really makes me feel so so alive.

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"small bursts of tender creation." Yes! Speaks to me.

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Hi! New subscriber here. Loved this post. I actually just launched a substack newsletter called How I’m Building This Life and it’s where I’ll be collecting and sharing stories of folks building careers and families at the same time. And in my first post yesterday I also referenced the same episode of We Can Do Hard Things! It was so raw.

My sanity is wrapped up in knitting 🧶. It is my favorite hobby and creative outlet. And through the pandemic I really embraced it as something worth my time, my undivided attention (whenever possible with 4 littles), and even financial resources. I think a lot of moms especially don’t think hobbies should cost too much of anything. But I’ve realized that for creative endeavors to take up meaningful space that truly allows for “self care” it should be treated with dignity and care. It shouldn’t be an afterthought.

So I buy the nice patterns and nice yarn. I share my progress and final projects with friends. I devote alone time to it. And my kids know it brings me joy and peace.

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Mar 2, 2022Liked by Courtney Martin

Absolutely indispensable and urgent question! Your eloquence follows and uplifts me with all your readers everywhere🙏🙌👍

I’m now in Honolulu for a collective celebration of our family birthdays, so we’ll read together this terrific column and then have a wonderfully weird brainstorming session of how to express our gratitude.

From Buddha to Gandhi, MLK and Thich Nath Hanh, stellar teachers of nonviolence (ahimsa) have illuminated ways to show compassion and loving kindness.

Judith Butler’s “The Force of Nonviolence” is a wonderful recent appeal for a “new imaginary”

to break through the plague of violence that pervades our society. How about giving us a conversation with her in a forthcoming Newsletter? DD

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