Last week I had the honor of chatting with my friend Kim Werker for 20 minutes about making things, projects that never end, and the narratives that thread through projects for her new podcast, Compulsory. The premise of this podcast is a brief conversation with each guest (I love brief podcasts!) that explores the drive we feel to make things. So far I've loved peering into this aspect of creative life. Have a listen:
At one point in our conversation, I had a moment of faltering concentration and slightly misunderstood one of Kim's questions, so I thought I'd take a moment to expand a little more eloquently on the subject of narrative. In essence, this is what she was asking:
In approaching your projects from the perspective of telling the story about it, do you make connections that you wouldn’t make if you were just doing it and not telling anyone? Furthermore, does this bring you meaning to the projects in new ways?
(The short answer is yes.)
I've always loved sharing stories and knowledge with others, and that's one of the things that draws me so strongly to the sharing economy and the DIY community. With our cabin project in particular, the adventure we were forging in this unknown path toward building a structure by ourselves just begged to be shared. All the research I did and information I had to pull from various dusty corners of the internet—there was no single source to guide me through this project, so naturally I wanted to offer up my experience in the hopes that it might help others forging a similar path.
I didn't have the capacity to tell that story in the way that I had hoped at the time, so I bottled it up for a future date. It was really over the holiday break that I finally felt like I was ready to dive into the narrative that I wanted to share, and put it down into words (a lot of them).
It also helps that the very nature of building something is a sequential act. This happened, then that happened—if we had only such-and-such, we might have done this instead. More to the point, as Justin reviewed the first few points, he articulated something about the project that gave me a frame of reference for all the work we planned to do on it this year. Something I never would have considered, but that ties the narrative together in a really cohesive way.
Even though I may be playing catch-up on sharing that narrative now, the mere act of telling our story has led me to be more interested in documenting our adventures, of digitizing my sketches and itemizing our materials and budget so that others can more easily consume them and benefit from them.
The project itself brings immense amounts of meaning to our life. It's become the things we do for fun, the creative outlet that we pursue together. But sharing this story with others also gives us a sense that we're contributing to some form of greater good. There's a level of higher purpose there.