I was out for coffee with a couple colleagues a couple week ago, when a thought came into my head and only when I said it out loud, did I fully realize how true it was for me and how sad I was at finding out how I’ve changed:
A few years ago–especially my last year in college and a year or two after I graduated–I enjoyed developing for the sake of developing. I didn’t care who would see it and use it, or what it would bring me: I only cared that I enjoyed making these things, and that they were useful to me in some way. That gave birth to the small hobby scripts in my archive, to the multitude of sites I used to own.
Now, I feel this pressing need that what I make/develop needs to either be profitable at some point, or game changing. It needs to matter to a lot of people. It needs to be significant to people.
And then I never get enough steam to carry me through more than a couple weeks to get it out. Since I am creating for the sake of some imagined external return (in various forms), even if I do love the idea (i.e., one of these ideas have been in my “plans” since more than five years back) it’s never been enough to keep me going on to completion.
(Some say this is why a “co-founder” is important, because you get to have the support you need to keep you going and fueled, but that’s for a different time.)
A friend suggested, well, why not redo those things you did, but this time in HTML5 and CSS3 and use AJAX and all that? But that’s exactly the thing: I don’t feel like redoing them anymore, aside from the occasional spurt of ambition. I have the expertise, but I don’t feel like redoing them for nothing, “just for the hell of it”. However, once I give my little project a goal, I get embroiled in doing it “the right way”, and I end up in that sad little hole that is called over-engineering. Which I dislike, and end up abandoning.
It is a disheartening realization. I have this need to be purposeful (likely a symptom of growing older?) in what I do, but I soon lack the joy in creating as I used to do. There is no drive to make something without a “purpose”, but there is no love in making something tailored for one.
But, a light at the end of the tunnel! As I’ve mentioned before, most of my hacking had been brought about by my learning something new. I don’t think it has to be anything really significant sometimes–I’ve had fun hacking together a few dirty WordPress plugins for my own use, for example. Baby steps, but steps all the same.
It’s never too late. :)