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Don't Be Afraid to Play

steelvoltage profile image Brian Barbour ・Updated on ・3 min read

It dawned on me recently, my favorite times are when I treat code like a toy. There is amazing power in weaving things out of your imagination with it, bending the ones and zeros to make your own digital reality.

For me it was easy to get caught up in the bureaucratic, dry, and formal environment of Software Development.

During my initial studies into software development, I researched every step of the way to make sure I was doing the right things. I wanted to ensure that I would meet the standards that a business needs out of their code.

The actual challenge of learning, the little puzzles along the way are what kept me coming back. My curiosity made me hungry, and I rapidly consumed all the knowledge I could. I tinkered around, went down rabbit holes, and came out carrying with me new treasures of experience.

I used to wonder how heroes like Luke Skywalker and Dr. Strange learned how to use their superpowers at such a rapid pace. Sufficient motivation and interest can level you up fast, that's for sure.Yet, that kind of energy isn't sustainable, something that I was sad to discover. It can take months to be proficient at a skill and decades to become a master.

After getting my first job as a developer, I was stuck by a strange feeling. I can only describe it as a lethargy and it caught me off guard. I think I just wasn't having as much fun.

Why not?

I was still learning new things... doing the same actions as before. Hell I now had a purpose, a reason behind writing my code, and was making money doing it. This wasn't a project some little portfolio site that someone would never see real use. This was an established product, a tangible thing that people utilize everyday. That mission should have made things even more exciting, upped the ante.

Unfortunately, with great responsibility comes great terror. Everything I did triggered a deep scrutiny within myself. I questioned the legitimacy of the things I was doing. I didn't want to disappoint my colleagues and superiors, wanted to make the right choices.

I think the fun factor for coding is different for everyone. We all arrive at this weird place from different trajectories.For me, I needed to give myself time to play around with code, without the intense pressure of productivity. I don't know how much time to play is satisfactory, yet. At least an hour or so a day feels good so far. Having moments where I tinker and express myself supercharges me to take on those difficult tasks.

Even if I figured out what works for me. I often wonder how many devs have lost the child-like joy that comes from playing. It saddens me sad to see a fires of excitement snuffed out, when mine are still blazing so hot.

Hell, there may be tens of thousands of programmers out there who code and don't care for it at all. They see it as a means to an end. A way to make money, and nothing more and nothing less. Just same as a guy cleaning a bathroom. He does the task because it lets him have a roof over his head and food it in his kid's bellies.

That thinking changed my perspective a bit. It doesn't sadden me as much. In fact, I give devs like that all my kudos. They are champs for learning something so complex and frustrating just to make money.

How many of you love toying around, making a plaything out of code? And what sorts of things do you play around with to keep your joy of coding?

Discussion (3)

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tacomanick profile image
Nick Shattuck

Currently toying around with Android, making goofy little apps that fit my interests. I find making silly projects when I'm learning takes the anxiety off of diving into the unknown. It also makes failing more hilarious.

jkhaui profile image
Jordan Lee

This is a great article - I feel similarly at times but do my best to change my attitude.
I am so much more passionate writing code when I build my own projects, rather than working mundane coding jobs, simply because of the feeling of ownership when building my own product.
That's why I like to work for startups now. More enjoyment and more meaning because (if you are given equity) you really are building your own product; you just have a team working alongside you

treb0r profile image
Rob Blake

Great piece. Inspiring for me as I have always loved just playing around to learn. Thanks!