A geek’s realization

Laptop workI 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. :)


  • Netjackal said:

    I heard this quote at the RedDot Ruby Conference 2011.
    ” Don’t let perfection get in the way of ‘good enough’ “. As developers there is a tendency to not close a project as we are constantly ‘tweaking’ it. Sometimes good enough is .. well .. good enough and we can move on to bigger and better things :D

    • Hehe yeah, totally true! It’s just…irresistible…to…keep…working XD I suppose really, the question is how to gauge if something is “good enough” :/

  • What you’re talking about in this entry reminds me a lot of the difference between reader-based prose and writer-based prose. The former is creative stories expressly written for others; the latter is creative stories the writer creates for himself or herself.

    As a first-time novelist, I find that just writing reader-based prose can start to suck the joy out of writing (as well as making me self-censor and get stuck worrying about “is this good enough for so-and-so to look at?”). Thus, I have to have a few “just-for-me” stories, stories I like and enjoy without having to worry about it being “good enough” to show someone else.

    Sometimes, in the process of writing a bit of writer-based prose, I come up with a concept that is AWESOME and I simply MUST use it in my reader-based prose. Those are the cool moments of sandbox discovery. I hope you can rediscover that same joy in your developing–as accomplished as you are, you’re not out of ideas yet!

    • Thank you :) You’re right, I am not out of ideas just yet. I have a good number of things I would love to work on, I just have to sort it all out in my head!