Not Copying But Conversing, Happily

Adam Savage said something in the Maker Faire video that really stuck with me. He was commenting on the criticism that makers sometimes get from people who don’t quite understand or maybe misunderstand the movement, something to the effect of “you’re just spitting back out what pop culture feeds you.” And he argued that engaging in the act of making/creating — even if it’s building two different replicas of Iron Man suits — we are actually talking back to the culture, conversing with it. Taking what it’s offered and offering something back. Not a mirror image, but something that’s been processed through our sensibilities, our ideas, our creative processes, our selves.

We might spit pop culture back out, but we’ve made sure to chew it first.

He went on to note how happy he has felt when making/creating. Yes, it’s transitory and yes, it comes and goes as frustration ebbs and flows. But there’s truly a giddy, weird joy (at least for me!) that comes with making. He touched on something I’ve been thinking about for a while: why do we do any of this anyway?

What motivates us to the point were we are willing to spend hours and hours of our precious free time doing something that other people may or may not ever see, something that we are probably not (although maybe we are) getting any financial compensation for, something that takes a lot of brain work and personal energy?

I think it’s exactly because it takes a lot of brain work and personal energy.

It makes my brain feel good to make something. It makes me feel good to write something or build something or level up in a game or collaborate on a project or build something…maybe based on what someone else has built.

James Gee touches on these aspects as well in Good Video Games and Good Learning. We explore, we take risks, we interact, we converse, we think differently, we act with agency, we produce, we get pleasantly frustrated – and in many cases, there’s something inherently, intrinsically rewarding about that. It makes our brains happy.

I connected to Adam’s story about getting frustrated with a creative project about 70% of the way in. I’m about 70% of the way into a creative project right now and yesterday felt like throwing in the towel. But I know that pushing past that point of self-doubt will feel great. Just trust the process, right?

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