I think there’s a pervasive false dichotomy which says that there are creative people and whatever the other category is. Artists and everyone else. It doesn’t reflect reality, but that doesn’t mean it’s entirely wrong either.

Everyone has creativity, of course, and imagination, and particular abilities. But there is a division that I’ve seen again and again, and like most traits, I think it’s partly intrinsic and partly a product of upbringing and opportunity. Some people are driven by an innate need to create things — even if those things are unimportant, or they already exist elsewhere, or they don’t lead to financial reward. Some people just need to make.

We have orthogonal cultural categories for these people, which includes artists of course, and engineers, and those we call talented in some way. Some categories are too vague, and some too specific, and I think the reason is that people who don’t fall into those groups can have a hard time understanding what it’s like for those who do.

Makers are people driven by a compulsion. They have a dozen hobbies, and shift from thing to thing without warning. They’re always learning, and forever questioning their own level of contribution. They procrastinate, certainly — maybe more than most, because there’s always something more interesting on their minds — but when they do get to a task, they can’t leave it unfinished or unaccomplished. Above all, I think, makers are the people who seem unable to relax, or to enjoy downtime. But that’s a misperception. For makers, unproductive time can be stressful and painful.

For them, it can be much more truly relaxing to learn or to explore something, than to engage in a passive or consumptive activity. Indeed, being compelled to do so can cause discomfort and resentment. It’s a matter of perspective.

For people who are makers, being perpetually involved in understanding and building and creating and expressing themselves, is often the only thing that makes life bearable.