There is a conversation that has surfaced from time to time in my travels and writings in the maker community. The basic sentiment is “I don’t make anything, but I love this community, how do I fit in?” I’ve heard this at massive Maker Faires, like the one in San Mateo that hosts enough people to populate a city. I’ve heard it at tiny makerspaces squeezed into shops on country roads in the middle of nowhere.

These people are not the ones who are just coming into the maker movement, waiting to learn a skill. These are the people who have been here, who have been involved, but don’t feel like they themselves make something. I can’t count the number of times that pillars of local communities have started their speeches with “I’m not really a maker, but….”

Dale's new book Free To Make

Dale’s new book Free To Make

I have a bit of a default response to this line of questioning. I explain that every community needs people who organize things and enable others. Reading Dale Daugherty’s new book Free to Make a single paragraph stood out to me and gave a wonderful description of how I feel these “non-makers” have value in our community. I’ve bolded the bit I feel is most impactful.

Another important reason we seek out fellow enthusiasts is to stoke our own enthusiasm. To move from an idea to a project requires energy. If I have an idea, I am going to invest a lot of my own personal energy to pursue it. At first I have to find this in energy in myself. Ideally, to be sustainable, my idea needs to generate energy, not just consume it. We often get this energy returned to us through interactions that our projects initiate. When someone shows that they enjoy my project – for example they share that they find it useful or amusing — they are giving me something back, and that can provide me with the motivation and energy to keep working. The currency of exchange is enthusiasm, something hard to define, but we know when we feel it.

This passage really had an impact on me. As a story teller, I see the spreading of enthusiasm as my main role. My value in this community isn’t necessarily building flaming swords (though that is fun), but rather as an enthusiasm amplifier. My goal is to take someone else’s work and push it out there on to the stage of Makezine.com or Make Magazine in order to allow others to feed enthusiasm back into the creator. Sometimes, that boost of energy is required to keep projects from dwindling and dying. I get the same satisfaction out of creating enthusiasm connections that I get out of completing a project.

So yes, you:

  • The makerspace organizer who never has time to actually make something
  • The editor who has never used a power tool
  • The Maker Faire producer with no interest in soldering
  • The parent who spends all their free time helping their kids finish projects and doesn’t make anything on their own
  • The facebooker and twitter user who shares cool stuff, but has never made anything
  • The many other folks who spread enthusiasm in various ways

You have value within this community. Keep spreading the enthusiasm so we can have a healthy maker economy.

Feature image courtesy of Andrew Kelly