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.

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11 Sep 2012 at Twitter

On this day I was reading