How to go from having to making


In an earlier post, we explored what it takes to learn a new craft. In sum, it takes time, patience, dedicated practice and passion. But even before we start, we have to choose which craft we’ll learn. That’s what this post is about.

As my friend Dave mentioned in Vernacularity 101, one route toward vernacular activity is to improvise when something we take for granted–like electricity–is taken away from us. We saw how without electricity, Dave, his family, and his neighbors worked together to devise unconventional and joyful ways of cooking, heating, and lighting.

Another path toward doing for yourself and others (i.e., vernacular activity) is slower and more deliberate.

This other path generally proceeds as follows: we choose something we enjoy and then try to create it ourselves with the help of others as needed. We progress from having something to making that something.

As an example, for a long time I’ve savored apple cider vinegar, sprinkling it on salads and using it as a tonic (strange, I know). Recently, I’ve gone from having apple cider vinegar to making it (it’s really quite simple).

Here are a few other examples of how the “deliberate path” to vernacular activity could work:

Like music? Compose a song inspired by your circumstance, surrounding locale, relationships, or other phenomena unique to you. When confident enough, share your composition with others.

Enjoy written communications? Write and send a handwritten note to friends or family members in place of a text, email, or manufactured card. Do you like to draw or paint? Even better! Include an illustration with your letter.

Appreciate sculpture? Carve wood to make useful implements or mold candles to lighten up the dark.

Fancy fashion? Design, sew, and fabricate your own clothes.

Enjoy food? Who doesn’t!? Cook. Better yet, establish a vegetable garden and feature homegrown veggies in your cooking!

Like to organize? Can or ferment a variety of foods. Store them in mason jars and organize by color, genus, seasonal use, culinary use, etc.

These are just a few examples of vernacular activities. Choosing any vernacular activity will set you on a course of making and doing. Just as the vegetable garden transforms into a colorful stir-fry dish, skills will build off one another and broaden your ability to directly respond to your needs and the needs of others. In this way, you start becoming an effective, active participant in your brief and singular life.

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