All the many strange and difficult-to-explain things that I do can be summed up rather neatly: I am a maker of things.
It’s a very generic description, but I have discovered that it is an important distinction. Some people are orchestrators of things, and in fact without them, makers of things would probably never get anything done. Some people are studiers of things and can tell you minute details about their passion. Some people are chasers of new things and have a gift for exploding old notions about how the world should work. Most people have a little of all, but lean toward one.
I am a maker. For me there is no greater thrill than to see something I have labored over fulfill its purpose. To find ways around unforeseen roadblocks and eventually to see all of the moving parts work in harmony. To see someone use it, enjoy it, think about it. It could be a website. It could be cookies. There is not much difference.
I am lucky in that my job encourages me to make things in new ways. However, having a job that requires this can also be taxing and frustrating, because when you do hit twists and turns in the process, you can’t just come back to the problem another time and go make something else. Instead, you must address the problem now.
Today, I faced just such a problem. Something that seemed as if it should be simple on the surface took an entire day of my time, and at the end I had nothing to show for it. I kept having different ideas about how to make the thing, but I could bring none of them to fruition. The problem remained unsolved. The thing itself was still just an idea. For a maker, this is impotency. (Not to mention the irritation I’m sure it is to a project manager.) There were several other things that I could have made successfully, but it was this particular thing that I had been assigned and that I needed to wrestle with today.
I came home and hit the gym, thinking I could blow off some steam that way. But I was still vaguely frustrated and unsettled when I came back to my apartment. So I sat down with dinner at my table and started sketching. I’m not very good — I just took one drawing class in college — but sometimes things are discernable if you close one eye, and it’s sort of fun. Four hours and an A-Team episode later, I had charcoal pencil shavings all over the table and a sketch of a tiny set of branches holding a Christmas ornament. I felt accomplished. I had made something. I had broken free of my frustration for just a little while, and my brain had settled back into that beautiful place where there were no rules and no failure as long as there was something to see when I was finished.
In my industry — in journalism — there is a lot of talk about the future and business models and the proper way to chatter online and how many times a week to print and whether journalists should be allowed to have opinions. And there are a few people who eschew talk and buckle down and make things, real things, things that many many people can use to lead better lives.
And then there are a few people who draw in charcoal on index cards, and dream of making real and better things someday.