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For the love of creating
Software engineering as an art form.
This morning I came across the archive of Vivian Maier.
I had seen her photography before, but was naive to the backstory of how these photos came to be.
Vivian was a nanny living in Chicago. She often took the children in her care out onto the city streets, camera in hand, taking pictures. An estimated 150,000 or more of them, mostly undeveloped.
These photographs were only discovered after her death, however. A collector, John Maloof, bought Vivians negatives (some 30,000+) in a job lot auction as she failed to keep up the rent on her storage space presumably as she came towards the end of her life.
Realising that these were special pieces of work, he put them online but by the time they had gained any traction Vivian had passed away.
I found looking through these pictures curiously haunting. So much passion for an art form pursued with no desire to share them outside of your own space is a beautiful thing.
Creating for the love of creating.
The art of creating something just or the sake of it is an idea is so far removed from how we are in todays society, where everything is to be shared online or monetised somehow. It seems alien almost. That is what makes it as a concept so alluring to me perhaps I find myself even questioning myself when writing this..
Is this going to be something people are interested in?
How will it be received?
Does this line up with my greater strategy for my work?
My thought it about the audience, my career & feeding the algorithm rather than the fact that these are words I am taking pleasure putting together and thinking about. I enjoy writing, but I enjoy it significantly less when I overthink the end result and how it will be consumed.
We are renovating (slowly) our house and my wife loves taking pictures of the progress. She started an Instagram account, as you do with these things. I have seen first hand the impact the transformation from doing something for the sake of enjoyment, to being de-motivated due to the nature of social media. If she doesn't post for a couple of days, her reach decreases. What started as something artistic and a passion project quickly becomes a stressful battle of social media tactics.
The true enjoyment comes from taking the picture itself. Framing a shot, waiting for the right lighting, sifting through different images to find the one that looks 'just right'.
Many people I work with these days wrote their first code because it was something they were interested in, not because it was a decent career prospect. I am old enough to remember a time pre-social media, and during that time I would build websites for nothing other than the satisfaction of building something from scratch.
Coding is a creative endeavour. It is an art.
That playfulness or exploration is something that I feel I have lost as I developed as an engineer and leader.
I overthink learning interesting technologies because it doesn't neatly fit into my five year plan or might not be beneficial to what I am doing now. I overthink writing something that doesn't squarely fit into the topic of my blog/newsletter.
I feel a sense of guilt when I have spent too long on something that doesn't necessarily move the needle on my career - and this is something I am keen to move away from.
We should be leaning closer towards the creative and playful nature that building something for the sake of it accompanies. It has benefits! The more we build or create or play, the better we get at something. The more opportunity we have to rekindle that joy or spark we had when we wrote our first line of code or took our first few photographs or wrote our first poem.
Maybe I shouldn't feel so bad about the endless swarms of half finished articles that sit in my journal or digital folders or the snippets of code scattered around in a graveyard of broken projects that I picked up to learn something and never finished.
Whilst on the surface they might look like failures - something that was never shared wider or truly finished - but look a bit deeper and each one of these projects was a learning experience and another step in the right direction of maturing in our crafts.
Lets normalise this and talk about it wider. There is too much expectation on people to share their work with the world and not to build anything unless it is going to increase some sort of imaginary metric.
Lets keep creating for the love of creating.