Warm Takes - Episode 5: Build
As I watch my 4.5 and 2 year old build towers, cars, planes, and Michelin Star dining experiences out of nothing more than coloured blocks, I'm awed by their joy of building. Each successfully placed block brings a smile to their face and their imagination grows. Our childhood is centered around building. We build our view of the world, our view of who we are, and hopefully some really tall towers that we can then knock over and laugh.
Some of us are able to hold onto this joy of building into adulthood. Whether it manifests as a hobby or a career in engineering, being able to find time to build something has incredible benefits. We often talk about creativity like, "Eureka!" moments. You are sitting around, maybe settling in to the bath like our good friend Archimedes, and it hits you! An idea so brilliant that it will be talked about for all time. But the truth, as most successful builders inherently know and what took me far too long to realize, is that creative leaps come from the deliberate act of building. They come from putting in the work and learning more about whatever craft you are focusing on.
I have imagined myself as secretly having an innate talent for coding. That if the right idea struck me I'd rise to the occasion and bring the idea into existence. "Eureka!" But I'm now thirty-five and only in the last two years did I start approaching learning to code with the curiosity and vigor of a child. Because I had convinced myself I'd be really good at programming, when I'd hit an obstacle in my learning, I'd be incredibly disappointed in myself. Over the years, I created and deleted so many "Coding Practice" folders because I'd rarely get past "Hello World!"
My kids didn't learn to build a tall, sturdy tower their first time. They iterated. They kept on going until they figured out how to place the blocks on top of each other so they wouldn't fall. They did this through their own discovery. Through trial and error. And as they got older, they learned to build more and more things with the foundational knowledge they'd earned through the work. They became more creative because they knew more about how to make it work. It's hard to even call it work bcause most of the time they are having so much fun they'd never know how much they are taking in.
When I think back on some of my happiest moments, it becomes painfully obvious that they center around some form of building. Nothing I've done would exist without finding joy in the building process. This doesn't mean every moment you are working on something challenging is going to be filled with smiles, but the entire process is often littered with tiny euphoric moments that keep pushing you forward.
If you long to be creative, but are waiting around for lightning to strike you are doing yourself a disservice. Lightning may never strike, but even worse, if it does, you won't be ready for it. We make our own creative lightning. When real lightning strikes, it's because there was an energy buildup in the sky that needed to escape. Our creative lightning is the buildup of moments spent working on things that eventually gets so big we need an outlet.
Building is fun. So, go build something. Build anything. Build a table, a website, a quilt, a painting, or a tower of blocks. It will probably not be exactly you wanted to make but you'll be building up those charges for when your lightning strikes.