The Atlantic Daily: 8 Ways to Stay Creative in Quarantine

These are trying, busy times. But art can act as a stress reliever.


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Not everyone can just sit around and work on their opus. These are trying, busy times. But art can act as a stress reliever, and there are lots of small ways to add creativity to your quarantine routine. I asked our writers and editors to share a few.


In 1906, the critic and activist Felix Fénéon published more than a thousand of what he called “novels in three lines,” all of them appearing in the French newspaper Le Matin.* So this is my prompt (in three sentences). Write a novel in three lines every day.

*And all are collected in a New York Review of Books edition translated by Luc Sante. (As an aside, most people would reflexively cite Ernest Hemingway as the man who won the brevity Olympics, coming up as he did with that famous six-word story about those pesky baby shoes … except that most likely he didn’t.)

— Peter Mendelsund, creative director


Completing a small segment of a larger project each day can be a tangible and beautiful way to mark the passage of time in quarantine. Your daily process can be as simple as you like: Take a picture of the view from your window every morning, paint a watercolor swatch in a color that matches your mood, or even fold your gum or candy wrappers to make a chain. Kids can participate too; have your child draw a picture every day of something new she’s noticed.

— Rosa Inocencio Smith, assistant editor


When six giants heaved a big old piano up to my fourth-floor walk-up in industrial Brooklyn a few years ago, we all thought I was crazy. Now it feels like I saw Zoom coming and lined up the antidote. Try this: Use the fragments of time between meetings to make some music—with your voice, with the zipper on your sweatshirt, with the cool guitar lurking artfully behind you. It’ll come, two minutes at a time, no screens required.

— Michael Owen, deputy editor


Writing poetry has always been a comforting activity for me. I’ve been writing daily poems on Instagram every April for National Poetry Month. During this difficult time, we’re all experiencing various degrees of grief and boredom and anger and nostalgia; why not write out what’s on your mind? You can also check out the #AtlanticPoetryChallenge on Instagram for weekly writing prompts throughout the month.

— Nesima Aberra, assistant editor


The Instagram hashtag #IsolationCreation is dominated by beautifully shot, artfully arranged, and practically museum-worthy tableaus made by professional artists in quarantine. But amateurs can use it to find inspiration too: In watching the photographer Jamie Beck’s daily Stories, for instance, I’ve been motivated to embark on a photo project of my own. Every day, I set a goal, to capture objects of one color, maybe, or to take a snap of something evoking my current mood.

Sure, I’ve only produced an eclectic album on my phone so far, but it’s a low-stakes way to observe my small, social-distanced world from a new point of view. And who knows? Maybe one day I'll be brave enough to upload and tag them, too.

— Shirley Li, staff writer


You can order clay online, but tip your delivery driver—it is heavy! The mere act of playing around with wet dirt is therapeutic in a Play-Doh kind of way, but if you’re feeling more ambitious, the internet is full of tutorials—just type “handbuilding ceramics” into YouTube. If you’d like to make your creations permanent (and food-safe), you can find a ceramics studio in just about any midsize or larger city; many offer affordable firing services and will be in need of your business once social-distancing orders are lifted.

— Ellen Cushing, special projects editor


I was never “enough” to make zines, never cool enough or arty enough—never punk-rock enough. But when a friend held an impromptu class on the storied practice, I decided to muscle up and pretend that I am. My conclusion? I am—you are—absolutely everything enough, so grab some pens and whatever else you’ve got lying around, cut up those old Atlantic issues (only after you’ve savored every word), and document this weird phase of life in an eight-page DIY magazine.

As a bonus, let your tiny human make a rainbow out of the paper scraps you aren’t using.

— Caroline Mimbs Nyce, senior associate editor


Improvisation and substitution are more difficult in baking than in cooking. But I’ve had to learn to work with what I have, making a cake with leftover carrots or a batch of cookies with no flour. Instead of shopping with recipes in mind, I’ve started making lists of ingredients already in my kitchen—oatmeal, peanut butter, frozen blueberries—and then searching for the mixture that will turn them into something delicious (or at least, worthy of late-night snacking).

— Annika Neklason, assistant editor

More activities for the weekend:

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