||[Jan. 4th, 2012|08:33 am]
I'm an inventor.|
It's a weird thing to say. I'm an inventor. People never seem to know what to make of it when I tell them that. It's a label I'm not always entirely certain of myself. It conjures up a weird image, of crackpot scientists and explosions and social paraiahs with their head in the clouds.
People ask, "Don't you have to own patents to be an inventor?" Or, "don't you have to be published in a magazine somewhere?". Or even condescendingly, "I've never heard of you." or "What have you even invented?" Inventing things is reserved for those with lofty degrees or expensive equipment. What do I know of making something? I'm armed with nothing but a crash course in a smattering of subjects, a workshop of tools and materials, and a propensity for daydreaming. But each project I take on opens new doors to understanding the world, and new ways to make the most of it. Many of the biggest businesses started in garages with people messing around and creating the Next Big Thing. It's a hard road, and it's punctuated with more failures than successes, but it's enough to get noticed now and again.
I call myself an inventor because it's what I am. Invention for me is not a hobby, it's a way of life. This is a part of me that's always been intrinsic to my nature, to pull apart, examine, redesign, and tinker with anything lying about, fitting solutions to problems, and inventing problems just to solve them. It's having your parents cringe when you threaten to make something they own better, and having your friends shake their heads when they see the mess you've created in building your latest project.
When I was younger, I would build for hours with Legos, Robotix, Pipe-works, and Capsela, making wagons and robots and dinosaurs, and rendering them down to parts to build them up again. Once when I was six, I booby-trapped the stash of silver dollars that I kept hidden in my closet, rigging a bat on a pulley system in an effort to keep out thieves. Needless to say, my mother was not happy when she went to hang my clothes. It was that kind of constant need to develop solutions for real or imaginary problems that directed my play time. As I got older, I began to clue into what each idea could be used for, and how others might receive them. Was it worth the effort to make something? Was I doing it for my own amusement or to serve some better purpose? Was the satisfaction of creating it enough to justify the labor and resources it would take to build it?
Success with invention is a spectrum. I'm in the dawning of a time when I have the resources to put behind some of the ideas I've had for years, and I've got the tools now to make the ideas I have a reality on the spot. I've had the good fortune most of the time to find a way to make many of my creations pay for themselves, and it's been sustainable for that reason. Even so, 90% of my projects never get publicized beyond myself and my roommate, and I have abandoned countless projects along the way. It's a hard thing to abandon a project and have to explain to countless people why you're no longer pouring your heart into something you wouldn't shut up about before.
But the spirit was in the creating, of figuring out everything that it would take to make something a reality, even if it never quite made it there. Everything we have around us in the modern world was an idea once, and we enjoy it because someone bothered to make it. And for every gadget or doodad around us, there are a dozen stories of failed innovations that just didn't make it for one reason or another. Right now, I'm slowly beginning to take my works public and building a portfolio of things I've created, from the mundane to the handy to the peculiar. Some of them are marketable, and the success I enjoy from those projects help finance the expeditions into failures, and the confidence gained from a well-received project is the hard currency to fund the next endeavor.
I've always dreamed of making things with my life. And now, I claim it as my title for all the things that I have made already, and as a commitment to all the things that I will create. The best way to predict the future is to invent it...so I'll see you when we get there.