Katie Broida
Ruminations on Coding and Crafting

A beautiful addiction

I had a chance to speak to an employee at a hardware company recently, and I surprised him in a couple of ways. One, I’m female and use woodworking tools. Two, I also know how to troubleshoot software.

Aside from all of the trails I’m blazing for women everywhere (hey ladies, you’re welcome), this got me thinking. Why am I fascinated by two seemingly unrelated interests, handicrafts and web apps? What is it about making crafts and writing code that has me daydreaming about future projects all day and plugging away at them after work at night? Well, I’ll tell you.

It’s all about the process.

I’m not a meditator. My mind is too busy and sitting down to actively calm the buzz does not appeal to me. However, getting to the root of a bug, adding some new functionality or counting stitches in knitting that has badly gone awry is calming. The complete focus feels like a relief from a world where nothing is entirely right or wrong. My web app submits the form or it doesn’t. My drawer sides are square or they’re not. The problem is clear. The solution may not be easy, but it’s there.

When I’m really in the thick of this kind of problem solving, I’m not even sure that my thoughts even bother to entirely surface. I run my fingers across boards that aren’t quite flush yet, I check my browser’s console and google the same error message again. The process feels the same, and a little like a trance, until one of two things happens. I neglect to take a break for way too long and, after hitting the same wall again and again, I quit in despair. Or two, I fix it. I solve the problem and I am on top of the world.

The funny thing is that all of these problems I’m solving are ones that are well documented and dealt with by talented craft/coders before me. It doesn’t seem to make a difference when it works, though. When it finally works, I’ve freaking won.

I suppose that’s why the hardware guy’s surprise baffled me at first. If you love making things, what would it matter what tool you use? It’s all sort of the same.