Funded! This project was successfully funded on February 7, 2013.

Update #20

The Audacity of Making

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I should apologize.

I realized I made a mistake with my book, Zero to Maker - an error of omission. I wrote it with the goal of trying to help other people get started. And the best way to do that, I thought, was making it as easy and straight-forward as possible. I quickly moved through the parts of my story that were hard - the depression, the doubting, the insecurity - because I didn't wish that for anyone else. Probably more honestly, though, I just didn't know how to talk about those moments. I still don't. They're intensely personal. And embarrassing. I know that people are facing far bigger issues and challenges: illness, grief, loss. Those are real problems. Worrying about my lack of creative ability hardly seemed like reason to complain. But the truth is I've spent a good majority of the past few years feeling like an abject failure - entire days feeling as though I don't know enough, am not smart or skilled enough, and am just an overall drain on the world. In other words: just terrible.

I wish I knew how to talk about this. I wish I could have conveyed this in my writing. Because now that I'm getting notes and messages from others who've started down the path, I recognize that same emotional depth. The same loneliness. The same staring into the unknown. The same worry about inadequacy. And there's nothing I can do to help, except offer a genuine "I know what you mean". Because I'm right there, still fighting all those battles myself. I'm still in the middle of it.

Beginnings are exciting. Endings are a relief. But middles are hard. There's every excuse to not make something, to not start a new project, to not learn a new skill. It's going to take time. There's going to be an endless amount of terrible output. There will probably be major mistakes, many irreversible. The odds of a project ever being completed in a satisfactory manner are impossibly small.

Yet, I'm still getting messages from readers who are doing it. People who have taken those brave first steps into the foggy future. People like Dale Crowner, who's starting a makerspace in Annapolis, or Sam Reynolds, who dove head first into building an OpenROV. Instead of grabbing onto any one of the legitimate excuses for not doing anything, they're making something. In spite of it all, they've begun.

I know there are people who don't struggle. There are some people who - as far as I can tell - have no problem picking up something new, filling their days with consistent practice and diligent work. I've met a number of these types, and they always amaze me. I envy them. I am not one of them.

My year of making - the whole “Zero to Maker” period - was a dark time. It went deeper than just losing my job. I got dumped. My savings dried up, and I had to move out of my apartment. I was living in my car. By nearly every metric, it was bad. But I did have few things going for me. I had my column for MAKE: and every week I would try a new skill, a new tool, a new project. And I had my friend Eric and this underwater robot we were trying to build (even though it seemed like a hopelessly ambitious effort). I was still trying.

That time in the shop saved my life. Putting aside the anxiety and worry for an hour or two, while I worked on a project or took a class at TechShop, could always turn my mood around, or at minimum kept me distracted enough to do something productive. The patience of the teachers and the encouragement of others around the shop was my lifeline. Eventually, that became the new normal. It still is. Just keep going: moving forward, working on the next thing, and helping as many other people as possible.

During that period, I wasn't the only one in TechShop trying to rebuild my life. In many of my classes, and always there to lend a word of encouragement, was Marc Roth. Marc was in a tougher spot than I was - living at the homeless shelter blocks away from TechShop, looking for any work that would give him the cash to support his two kids - but he had a far better attitude than I did. Regardless of the circumstances, he never had a bad word to say about anyone or anything, and never wavered from his commitment to learning. Marc and I both became regulars at TechShop, largely because we had little place else to be. I watched him go from manually and mechanically illiterate to the most skilled laser cutter operator in San Francisco (among many other new skills). We hired him as soon as we needed the help for OpenROV. So did a lot of others.

Marc has become the de facto source for production laser cutting in San Francisco, and his company, SF Laser, has flourished. But Marc has decided to take on a bigger challenge. Something closer to his heart (and closer to mine, too). He's opening up the Learning Shelter - a physical space for his ideas on helping other homeless folks get back on their feet through making and a digital fabrication education. He knows what he's talking about. And, more importantly, he is focused and determined.

He's jumpstarting his project here: http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/the-learning-shelter
(It’s a tax-deductible donation thanks to the fiscal sponsorship of the Institute for the Future - they’re not taking a cut, just helping out.)

You can help. I hope you do. More importantly, I hope you realize that your small contributions - a few dollars, a facebook share, a kind message - matter very much. The small nudges of support are the only way a project like this succeeds - the only way Marc's dream comes to life. The internet has made it easier than ever to offer a nudge. Too easy, maybe. But don't let that diminish it. We're all in this together - you, me, and Marc are all sitting on the other side of these screens. Doing our best. And totally dependent on those little nudges from one another.

It's been hard for me to look back - to stop and think about all that's happened over the past few years. Thinking about it never seems productive. But whenever I do, it's obvious the only way I made it through was with a thousand little nudges from the people around me. When you realize that. You understand that your job in this world is to be a nudger yourself. Aloneness is almost certain failure. Togetherness is the long, hard road that keeps it all going.


Update #19

What I've Been Thinking About Lately...

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It's Friday! I hope you're getting ready for a relaxing or exciting weekend. Or both!

I had the chance to spend Thanksgiving with my parents last weekend, and reflect on what a crazy year this has been. Mostly, I was really grateful for all of you - for believing in me and helping me bring the book to life. Thank you.

I also wanted to write a quick note about some of the ideas I've been thinking about lately. It's a funny thing, writing a book. The ideas don't stop when it's done! John Steinbeck once said: 

“Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen.”

He was so right! And the more I think and write about this maker movement, the more dynamic it seems. I've been particularly interested in how these tools are starting to mature, and how the communities are moving out of the garage and into the natural world. I wrote a long manifesto-type piece for Make: called Makers: The New Explorers of the Universe, and have been blown away by the response. It feels like there's a wave of amateur curiosity that's about to be unleashed on the world. Thrilling, really. 

On a similar note, my TED talk from earlier this year was posted yesterday. TED also let me write a companion piece about the changing nature of exploration. It was a good opportunity to highlight some of the amazing people in our OpenROV community and, again, talk about how makers are becoming explorers.

That's all for now! I hope the rest of 2013 is rewarding, and wish you an interesting and maker-filled 2014.

Regards,
David

PS. If you're looking for stocking stuffers, a copy of Zero to Maker would be a great choice! ;)

PPS. My family started a new maker tradition at Thanksgiving this year - taking the time to work on a project together. I've attached a photo of the deer ornaments we made out of a fallen birch tree. 

Deer lawn ornaments made from a fallen birch tree.
Deer lawn ornaments made from a fallen birch tree.

Update #18

A suggestion...

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Hey there!

I hope you're having a good week! I wanted to send a quick update on book delivery, as well as offer up a small idea. 

First off, the physical copies of the book have all shipped. They're all in the mail (provided you responded to the survey), and should be arriving by next week at the latest. A few have been returned to sender, so send me a message through Kickstarter if yours hasn't arrived (NOTE: send a direct message through Kickstarter rather than leave a comment - it's much easier for me to keep track of requests).

Second, I wanted to offer up a simple idea and suggestion: consider making someone a gift for the holidays. Last year, I made my parents a cribbage board in the shape of Minnesota - it was great! The one thing I wish I would have done was start sooner. The holidays creep up quickly and it's hard to make something beautiful on short notice. So I figured I would drop this note now, at the end of October, to get you thinking about what and for whom you might make a gift. 

If you do, send me an email and tell me how it goes. I'd love to hear stories.

Kindest regards,
David


Update #17 - For backers only

Books on the way...

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For backers only. If you're a backer of this project, please log in to read this post.


Update #16

#1 Bestseller on Amazon!!

... in the Electronics (now in Manufacturing Engineering) category, but hey! That's still pretty cool! ;) 
 

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=zero+to+maker&rh=i%3Aaps%2Ck%3Azero+to+maker 

Thanks again for all your help and support getting to this point. I just heard from the O'Reilly team and they're busy getting all the ebooks out. It's quite a queue, so it looks like it's going to take until Tuesday to get them all out to all of you. Sorry about the slight delay. More info to come on print book shipping as well.

One more thing: I'm in NYC right now, and will be at World Maker Faire all weekend. I'm giving a talk at 12:30pm on Sunday. If you're in the area, please stop by and say hi!

 http://makerfaire.com/makers/zero-to-maker-getting-up-to-speed-with-the-maker-movement/ 

 Best,
David

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