The Prompt: “Make. What was the last thing you made? What materials did you use? Is there something you want to make, but you need to clear some time for it?” (Author: Gretchen Rubin)
It would be easy to punt here and to talk about food, because lord knows I love to cook and bake, but that wouldn’t turn out too well because I don’t have an oven here and haven’t cooked (much) or baked a damn thing in six months. And yes, that’s both literal and metaphorical.
I could also punt and say “well, I made a dissertation, and an article, earlier in the year,” because that’s what academic sorts do, but that seems kind of lame, too. While the article is pretty good if I do say so myself, I made it in 2009 and just polished it up a little in 2010. And the dissertation? Well, if it were a cake it would be a lumpy, lopsided cake with too much baking powder. Never good. Not my best work.
Instead, I want to harken back to one of those vivid moments I mentioned previously—in this case a good one. It was the first? only? time anyone ever acknowledged that my job—information gathering in service of developing an application, then the development itself and the iterative process of asking more questions, and seeing at all points along the path all the possible questions that could arise, and wrapping all that up into a carefully crafted, flexible, usable thing—was an art. It might have been the first (and perhaps only) time that anyone I was ostensibly working for acknowledged that what I do is more than a Simple Matter of Programming. I suspect the person who said this to me had a unique opportunity to understand the frustration I often felt at being thought of as a purely replaceable service provider, as her job was one also considered by “those in the know” as an art form, but by the masses as…not so much. Wait. That kind of makes her sound like a…person who does untoward things for money. Nope, not that. Just trust me on this.
[I was reminded of this moment because I read the #reverb10 prompt at just about the same time I read this tweet by @jgsmith that lead me to “I Just Need a Programmer”, a blog post by Eugene Wallingford. While I agree with the post overall, there’s definitely something between knowing how to write some code and knowing how to develop an application—the latter does require time and experience to hone the craft.]
So, back to me and making things. I don’t think that I’ve made anything to the extent that I am used to doing, or desire doing, or am fundamentally good at doing, or, more to the point makes me happy to be practicing my craft, all year. And that’s a big problem.
I can point to a few occasions this year in which maybe I spent a day making something—usually fixing something someone else had broken, though, which isn’t the same thing but certainly allowed me some snippets of time to create. And, there were a few occasions where some friends were kind enough to let me wax philosophical about re-making some parts of one of their things, and that was good.
I’m moving to a place where my primary job will be to envision and enact—to make things—and that is…well, it makes me ridiculously happy. I just have to make it there, and put this year behind me.
[This post is part of Reverb 10 “an annual event and online initiative to reflect on your year and manifest what’s next.” This is my post #6.]