Hobby dev or Dev with a hobby?

Side projects? We don’t need no stinking side projects… Or do we?

Killing Hobbies

I’ve been “jobifying” hobbies for most of my time in the workforce.

I have spent most of my life camping, and in high school I started rock climbing in my friend’s basement. So when I decided working for my Dad wasn’t what I wanted to do anymore, I found a job as a part time climbing guide and part time backpacking guide. Turns out I didn’t love working as a guide, but I really liked working in that industry. So once the guide season was over, I went and found a job working in a climbing gym.

In the 6 years in that industry, I can count on one hand the number of climbing trips I took purely for fun. And I could probably say nearly the same thing for backpacking (I might need the other hand for this one). These things that used to be hobbies ceased to have the same draw. I was spending my time on the clock doing those things, I didn’t want to spend my time off the clock doing them, too. So I didn’t.

Fast forward to now, working as a web developer. I started out programming for fun and convenience, little things that made my life easier, but mostly were just for fun. Now that I spend 6-8 hours a day doing this, I go home and do just about anything but programming for fun. This hobby of mine is now mostly dead.

Mostly dead is still slightly alive

I was always good at my other jobs, I even eventually rose to management, but you know which people were best at it? The people who still chose to maintain its hobby status. The best backpacking guides were the ones who practically lived in the woods. The best climbers were the ones spending their weekends at a crag somewhere, learning new skills to translate into the gym. I don’t know that I have been working in this field long enough to say with 100% conviction that this is also true here. But I believe there are 2 types of people in this world: those who can extrapolate from incomplete data.

It may be that I’m wrong for 90% of people in this job, but I think for me, with my history, and my situation, maintaining hobby status is one of the most important things I can do for my career. Being self taught, there wasn’t necessarily a logical progression in learning. I hopped from problem I was trying to solve to new problem in whatever order I felt like. This left lots of gaps in my knowledge. Lots of questions I didn’t even know I needed to ask. And while work has succeeded in filling in most of these gaps, I’m limited in what I can learn by the problems I’m trying to solve at work. And because there is often a deadline, I don’t get to explore every possible solution to a problem. I pick the best one I know and implement it. Then move on to the next problem.

Hobbies are different. There isn’t really a deadline. There aren’t the same restrictions placed on you. You can afford to do it wrong many times. And each “wrong” attempt is not a failure, simply a learning experience for how not to solve the problem. (Insert one of the many variations on Thomas Edison creating a light bulb in 1,000 steps/finding 1,000 ways not to make a light bulb, you get the idea.) So as someone who started in this field as a hobby, the way to continue to progress in this field, for me to become the best I can be at it, I need to revive my hobby. After all, it’s only mostly dead. And mostly dead is still slightly alive.

So with that said, I think it’s time to call in Miracle Max, time to pick up the hobby again. It is time to bang my head against my keyboard for fun again. It’s time to storm the castle.