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Learning with your hands


Michelle Mars jewelry tools

I recently finished Shop Class as Soulcraft by Matthew B. Crawford. It's a fascinating read about the return to craftsmanship and working with your hands. Here are a few quotes that really spoke to me. 

Without the opportunity to learn through the hands, the world remains abstract, and distant, and the passions for learning will not be engaged.

I find this to be especially true in today's workplace. It's so easy to stay in abstract thought while you're on the computer. It's like you're only using part of your brain. But when you take a pencil or another tool into your hand, you're forced to make your ideas concrete. This is why I sketch out my ideas before jumping onto the computer. 

Craftsmanship means dwelling on a task for a long time and going deeply into it, because you want to get it right.

Another problem of our fast-paced work environment is that no one spends enough time getting really good at one thing. There's always a new skill to learn. I find there's a certain level of pride that comes from being good at something specific. 

The truth, of course, is that creativity is a by-product of mastery of the sort that is cultivated through long practice.

This last quote was contested a bit when I posted it on Twitter. But I really like the idea of creativity as a by-product of mastery. Yes, you can be creative in sort of a free and undisciplined way but the end result may not be something that is admired by anyone other than the maker. 

Creativity isn't something you can address head-on like sweeping a floor or painting a wall. It's something that comes to you while you're doing something else. In the meantime, you can perfect your craft and when the creative spark hits, you will have the skills to execute it excellently.