By January 6, 2013 Read More →

Making Things Makes You Feel Better

This is about the importance of making things, and it was inspired by a talk I just had with a dear friend. Let’s call him Paul.

Paul’s going through a tough time. A genuinely good man with a great education and a solid track record in business, he’s struggling nonetheless.

The problem, you see, is that he’s now in his mid-forties. And in the tech field within which he’s been operating, that means old. And old means for so many in the new economy that you’re out.

So Paul’s having having rough financially, which is causing him to  bicker with his wife and snap at his kids. He’s anxious not only about his future, but more important, about what lies ahead for his family.

Paul’s found some solace, however, in coding. Amidst a schedule of cold-calling and resume-sending, he’s setting aside time each day to make things. He’s building apps.

Paul has little expectation that these apps will earn him any money. That’s not even his goal. What he’s going after is the authentic pleasure one gets from tinkering around and making things. Having something in front of you that wasn’t there a few hours or days before.

I certainly know the feeling. I’ve worked in creative fields my whole life. I’ve spent nearly every day making something. Some of the things I’ve made are useful and beautiful; many others were flops.

What I have not made, however, is a lot of money.

Sure, I’ve would have loved to have earned boatloads of cash along the way and would gladly accept it if it was handed to me, but that just doesn’t seem to be in the cards.

There are the times when I regret not having gone into a more lucrative field like finance, sitting in front of spread sheets, trading, getting the big picture of how all the wealth is flowing around the planet. And I imagine there are some pretty smart and interesting people in that game. I’ve even told myself now and then that what Wall Streeters do is equally “creative” to the work I pursue, that they’re simply working in a different medium.

But what they do is not what I do.  They are not being creative in the way I understand the term and value it.

Now, I concede that certain amount of creative thinking is required to beat the market, or to excel in just about any pursuit that requires brainpower and imagination.

But when I talk about creativity, I’m referring to something much more basic. Creativity as the simple act of making stuff. A film, a book, a poem, a song. Having a blank page in front of you and filling it up with something that, hopefully, is close to how you think and feel, and if you’re really lucky, effects someone else in a way that’s important to them.

So I never regret, and am increasingly grateful, for the time I’ve spent and continue to spend making things. Today, for example, I finished yet another chapter of the video version of the Strategic Storytelling seminar and workshop. It’s a big project, and I’ve been going at it deliberately now for a couple of months.

And each day, I look at the work I’ve done and enjoy a genuine feeling of accomplishment. Sure, some things I could have crafted with more care, and I’ll have to go back and make revisions. But nevertheless I feel better about myself and about life overall.

I even feel pretty good about writing this essay, even though it too may not be my greatest work.

The point is making things makes you feel better.

I’m not sure if we’re all born creative, but it does look like many of us have a natural impulse to put out into the world something that wasn’t there before.  And when we do so, we feel good.

I know it’s working for Paul. It’s worked my whole life for me.

And I’m sure it will work for you too.

Make something of yourself. Make things.

 

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