Making, creating and fixing were once the foundation of our economy. As consumers, most of us no longer make things, we buy them; we don’t fix things, but replace them instead. It has become so hard to be self-reliant, and this learned helplessness has left us bereft of “individual agency” – this is the experience seeing a direct effect of our actions in the world, and knowing these actions are genuinely our own. “Progress” has removed us from taking care of our own things – cars, plumbing, home improvements. People now almost take pride in this ignorance which was spawned from the modern culture of passivity and dependence. Manual competence – the ability to make, produce create and fix – has a wider significance. It gives a sense of autonomy, independence and a feeling of responsibility for tangible assessable work. Work is a central part of most people’s lives, so it’s not surprising that it is critical to the way we feel about ourselves and to our sense of well-being. Work generates a feeling of being worthwhile, and a sense of meaning or purpose in life. But for too of us working in the offices of our modern economy the product now feels illusory and untouchable. Office work rarely produces any tangible output….. what has been accomplished? Physical jobs that yield palpable produce have become exotically unfamiliar but this type work often leads to greater job satisfaction—irrespective of how well it is paid (Bryson, A. and MacKerron, G., 2017). There are physical and mental benefits from creating and expressing ourselves in a material way (Stuckey & Nobel, 2010). In our always–on, always–connected world we work with our fingertips and relax with Netflix. Smart phones and tablets are the modern peacemaker, used to comfort, entertain and relax. But our innate need to create is the possible reason millions of adult’s returned to their preschool years to rediscover the joy of colouring books in 2015. Colouring books for adults can now be found amongst the bestsellers (Rigby & Taubert, 2016). The intricately patterned adult colouring books of Scottish illustrator Johanna Basford have sold more than 16 million copies in 40 countries. There are now more hundreds of adult colouring books on the market. Amazingly Basford wouldn’t buy one of them, though – “I can’t stay inside the lines,” she said in an interview. But with hard physical work becoming increasingly rare, many people are now finding ways of doing it for free. Running and the act of creating or making are intimately linked. Running rewards practice and perspiration rather than innate ability. The longer the distance of a running event, the greater the capacity to influence and improve results through training (Joyner & Coyle, 2008). The outdoors has become a place of extreme work and suffering—with marathon runners, triathletes, iron men and tough mudders putting their bodies on the line with no expectation of getting paid. The only reward is a medal for participation and the priceless feeling of knowing you have done it.
Bryson, A. and MacKerron, G. (2017), Are You Happy While You Work?. Econ J, 127: 106–125
Joyner MJ & Coyle EF. (2008). Endurance exercise performance: the physiology of champions. J Physiol 586, 35-44.
Rigby M & Taubert M. (2016). Colouring books for adults on the cancer ward. The BMJ 352, h6795.
Stuckey HL & Nobel J. (2010). The Connection Between Art, Healing, and Public Health: A Review of Current Literature. American Journal of Public Health 100, 254-263.