I have several hobbies, many of which are designed specifically to get me away from the computer. Discovering an idea to pursue with those hobbies can be hard. I occasionally suffer from Maker’s block, where I know I want to work on something, but have no idea what it is. I had that problem recently while trying to come up with a project to learn several new skills. I wanted a project where I could learn soldering, Arduino interfaces, and the use of my new CNC router. Being new to all of those skills, I did not know my limitations or the full extent of the possibilities. So, to fight my maker’s block, I made a thing.
What I mean is, I made an object with very little practical use at all, that is aesthetically neutral, where the only real purpose was to gain a greater familiarity and basic skills in the areas I was interested in pursuing. When done, it would be a mostly useless ornament where the work that went into it was far more important than the outcome.
The result is a small block of wood with some wires running out of it for connection to an Arduino, and some holes drilled where you can view a series of 8 LEDs, continually counting from 1 to 8 and then starting over again in an endless loop. I wrote the simple code to control it in the Arduino environment, used some basic components including a shift register, jumpers, resistors and LEDs which I soldered to a printed breadboard, and cut a small case from some scrap wood using my CNC router.
The project took just a few hours to complete, and served its purpose well. I learned what I wanted to learn, I moved past my rut of maker’s block and restored my enthusiasm, and now, I am anxious to find the next thing to work on.
I hung this thing I made next to my desk at home. Next time I am suffering from a creative block, I will see it and remember this experiment. Just build something. Anything. This useless thing is a reminder that the process is as important as the outcome, and starting something is not as hard as it seems.