Doing something

When I was a child, and I was a bored and frustrated, I’d sometimes tell my parents, “I want to DO something!” I wasn’t sure what it was I wanted to do — hence my frustration — but I knew what I didn’t want to do.

I didn’t want to read or draw or just play with toys. They weren’t doing. There was a particular itch that needed scratching, and only certain activities could manage that.

Building with Lego did the job. But once I’d built something — usually, unimaginatively, whatever the instruction book told me — I didn’t want to do much with it. Playing with the train, or the town, or the spacemen wasn’t doing.

Similarly with toy soldiers. I could happily set up scores of 35mm soldiers, or hundreds of OO/HO scale soldiers, poised to fight across my bedroom floor, but then… the battle was usually swiftly over because playing at war wasn’t doing.

Constructing, building, configuring hundreds of small parts: those were all doing. I’d have something greater than the sum of those parts to show for the doing.

And I think this is also the itch that programming satisfies. Decades on, if I’m a bit restless, and not in the mood for reading or watching TV or anything so passive, then fiddling around with code feels like doing.

Slowly constructing a thing, trying stuff out, making it work, ending up with a thing that’s so much better than its parts. When my head’s deep in both code and Lego, the time flies by and I’m doing something.

11 Sep 2012 at Twitter

On this day I was reading