Trouble Staying Motivated

Posted by Matt Farmer on January 29, 2015 · 7 mins read

Life tends to present itself as a series of seasons. Some characterized by career success, some by personal growth, and others by something else entirely. Whatever season I’m in now, it hasn’t been the easiest for any of my side projects.

The Get Open student mentors hip initiative was a total flop. The rubber hit the road in the pilot and the model just broke down. Communication stopped after a few emails. It was a limited, perhaps foolish idea. But I don’t regret trying it. And to say that Depend On has hit a wall is a bit of an understatement. I’m still having continual issues with version number comparison aside from the multitude of other things needed for MVP, and trying to open source a significant portion of the application without just open sourcing the entire thing turned out to be more of a nightmare than I first imagined because it made my build pipeline five degrees more complex. Just looking at the code seems to paralyze me these days.

I’ve done some good things under the Georgia Open Data Project imprint. They’re just things that nobody else is particularly interested in, which is unfortunate. The functionality of my GAODP projects is about what you can expect of most things that only have a single person with a full time job on the side doing: minimal. And unfortunately, though there have been some good small wins on Lift recently I haven’t gotten the itch to dig into it recently. There are some things I’d like to see done, and have speculated about how to do them, but finding the energy to do so these days has been harder than I recall in recent history.

I wrote last summer about the Economies of Scaling Back and the importance of maintaining a balance between all the things you want to do and still having a life. Maybe I failed to scale back enough things or scale back soon enough and am now going to have to tolerate a period of burn out. Or maybe it’s something else entirely – I do have a notorious history of being incredibly lethargic when the weather gets cold. And man has it been cold recently. I do my best to take it as it comes, but verily my Type-A frustration at myself for not being able to do more is easier to deal with one some days than others.

But I’m sure you’re wondering: why am I typing this into a box with the intent of sharing it with the Internet?

I know there are a lot of folks that are interested in Depend On, and on some level I feel as though I owe you all an explanation as to why nothing has happened lately. But more important than that, I think that we – as the people on the front lines of the technology industry – commit a travesty in how we represent our work sometimes and that’s reinforced when people don’t say “Hey I love what I do, but I haven’t been able to like it as much as normal recently.”

Believe me when I say it: I love coding. I love technology. There’s no feeling quite like the rubber hitting the road and pulling off some magic for a real person. It’s what I would be doing even if I couldn’t do it full time as my job. But I go through periods – months sometimes – where I come home at the end of the day and the last thing I want to look at is a line of code. I get these big great ideas, spend a lot of money to start making them happen, and then halfway through it’s as if my brain decides it was never interested in it in the first place and getting an ounce of productive work done on it becomes about as easy as pushing an F-350 truck up a hill by yourself. (And yes, I’m aware that my southerner is showing with that choice of mental picture.)

It could be the case that this experience is entirely unique to me, though I doubt it. So if anyone tells you that if you learn to code your life will be awesome because really you just get to do what you love all the time, they’re telling you the truth. But let me disabuse you of any mental picture of being Super Coding Machine™ that lives, breathes, and eats code and never gets tired of coding code all the code day long. Because just like everyone else there are weeks and months on end where even though I’m doing what I love I find myself lacking that spark that drives me to push it to the next level.

In spite of this rut, for lack of a better term, I’m still going to get up tomorrow and put everything I can into my day job and be so thankful that I have the privilidge of doing so. And that’s a bit of why I still say that I love coding: I’m still thankful to be doing it even in the seasons it’s not as likeable / interesting / insert positive adjective here as it was a few months ago. And I do that knowing that it will be that again for me before too long. These things are always cyclical. C’est la vie. But it might be a bit before you see a lot of side work from me.

So, what’s next?

Well I know better than to try and force things when I’m not in the state of mind to do them well. I imagine I’m going to be buying some books that have been sitting on my waiting list for awhile. I’ll probably still be tinkering around with GAODP, so if you have an interest in helping to make Georgia’s Data more accessible hit me up on Twitter (@farmdawgnation). Some extra interest would definately help kick up my momentum on that. I’m also going to spend some more time writing than I have in recent months, so hopefully this blog will be getting some more love, too.

I would love to hear your experiences with what I’ve talked about in this post. Have you experienced these cycles like me or are you the Super Coding Machine™ that I made a bit of fun of earlier in the post?

Until next time, folks.