I came across this book a few years ago when I worked at Penguin and although I didn’t read it, the concept really resonated with me. We live in a world where most of us sit behind computer screens all day and although we may be creative at times, most of us don’t actually MAKE anything.
Sure, we may produce an advert, or design a website or write some words that will help sell people some more soap, but there is no physical product at the end of it that we can hold, while we admire our handiwork.
Chefs make stuff. So do artists. And builders. Plumbers fix broken things. So do mechanics and doctors. But for the rest of us, we’ve been fed the lie that “the only jobs worth doing involve sitting at a desk”.
My husband recently resigned from his job, which has given him more time to get stuff done around the house. So for the past week he’s been restoring this old coffee table: fixing the wobble, painting some parts and revarnishing others. And it’s given him such a sense of achievement and satisfaction. In fact I often catch him staring out the window on to the patio to admire his completed table and I understand why.
I’m the same way with baking and with gardening. There’s a reason people have hobbies and it’s to fill a gap that we’re simply not getting from our day jobs. When you bake you start with a few tins and packets and powders and you end up with this beautiful cake that tastes delicious and simply wasn’t there before. With gardening you plant a seed and water it and after a few weeks you have a carrot! A bright orange carrot that only exists because of you and which you can actually use to feed your family – how cool is that?
In Matthew Crawford’s book he makes a case for working with our hands again because it can provide “one of the few and most rewarding paths to a secure living”. Thousands of young people are sent off to university every year, even when many of them are completely unsuited to academic pursuits or the office working life that follows. I want to bear this in mind with my kids and not push them automatically off to university just because it’s the “acceptable” thing to do.
It’s the same with fixing things. Our generation is so quick to toss something away if it’s got a broken zip or a bit of peeling paint. But the satisfaction gained from fixing that zip or repainting that wooden chair is immense, never mind the cost saving benefits too.
So I’d recommend reading Matthew’s book, because apparently it will “change the way you think about work forever”. And if it doesn’t do that, at least it will encourage you to fix something or make something and see how good they both make you feel.