Side Project Zen

I haven’t written anything here for a while. I think it’s because I haven’t had as much focus. An article I read recently spoke about covergent and divergent modes of thought and I’ve been exploring lots of different things as opposed to focussing on a few. The Christmas break is a great time to reflect, blocking out other creative stimuli, something songwriter St Vincent calls “Nun mode”.

I’ve been trying to use this time to focus a little more on side projects; to write code outside of my day job, something I haven’t done for nearly a year. It feels strange reading that, even in my second edit. It’s very hard to force interest in something; you cultivate interest; ideas grow in your mind.

The stakes seem a little higher this time round, perhaps I posess more knowledge and I have a tendency to want to demonstrate the breadth of my ability, to overcomplicate things. But invariably I end up never releasing anything, my creativity stifled by my inner critic.

One of the most revelatory ideas for me recently has been that of play, something we just don’t do enough of as grown ups. There’s a fantastic Alan Watts lecture in which he likens life to the way we play music.

“One doesn’t make the end of the composition the point of the composition. If that were so the best conductors would be those who played fastest. And there would be composers who only played finales. People would go to concerts and only hear one crashing chord because that would be the end.”

We play music. We don’t work through it.

While most people would probably think it strange for a grown man to play with toys, the other day I bought myself an animatronic Baby Yoda (or Grogu depending on how far along in the series you are; ages four plus!) in acknowledgement of my playful side. I don’t feel the slightest embarrassment telling you this because I wish it were more socially acceptable to connect with our inner child selves. To play, to have fun, to try familiar things as if for the first time.

Previously when I made things in my own time, I felt the need to turn them into businesses, because they didn’t have some imaginary stamp of “validity” unless they made money (which almost all of them didn’t) but today I don’t feel that at all.

I think it’s perfectly fine to try something without any pressures, to experiment, to play around. That’s how we learn.

But even more importantly, removing these pressures takes away all the stress associated with expectation. There’s nothing to worry about when you’re building something without any time constraint, on your own terms.

And that’s why this Christmas break I haven’t told myself I’m going to finish anything before I return to work. If I learn something in the process, fantastic. If I don’t, so be it.

I’m Tim, a Software Engineer from the UK. I like to write code, cook, read & run.

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