Monday, April 5, 2010

What is a Maker?

Making Monday

The simple (and simplistic answer) is someone who makes. Of course, the problem with a simple answer is that it doesn't work as often as it works.

What do I mean?

Consider the analogous question, "What is a writer?"* If we answer in an equally simplistic fashion, that a writer is someone who writes, then we've included everyone who arranges letters into words, from a thug scrawling graffiti to the author of a thousand page tome, in the definition. Implicit in the question is the qualifying assumption that others must find some value in your work to be a writer.

So, to play with the analogy, a maker would be someone whose work others value. That definition, at least, allows us to exclude, for example, people who make messes.

Oh, you might say, you mean creative types: artists, musicians, designers, etc.

Yes, but I also mean engineers. You see the making I'm getting at involves both hemispheres of the brain: on their own, right-brain passion and left-brain pragmatism produce works devoid of life. Both must be involved to bring a new thing into the universe.

Put another way, bright ideas (generally valued at a dime a dozen) are only the genesis of making. A true maker has both the skill and the fortitude to do the work (sometimes hard, sometimes tedious) to realize the idea and bring it to its final form.

To illustrate with writers, many people have ideas that could be great stories or books. What sets the writer apart from the many people is that they do the work to turn a, "Wouldn't it be cool if ...," into three or four hundred pages of coherent, entertaining prose.

Does that make sense? What do you think?

* We're speaking colloquially here. It would be more accurate to ask, "What set of activities and attributes are necessary and sufficient to call someone a writer?"

 Image: Bill Longshaw /