Staying Motivated and Creative

2009-07-22 20:00:00 -0400

I saw this post from The Flying Jalapeño Lives just now, wherein Corey poses a couple of methods for staying motivated as a programmer, particularly somebody works solo or remotely, possibly out of his or her home. They aren’t bad suggestions, but I figured I’d respond with another take on things, since I have some first-hand experience with the matter.

No amount of mental tricks and playing with your IDE can make up for the importance of real human company. For about a year and a half I worked out of my home, just me and the cats, and it was incredibly isolating. When you work alone all the time, you begin to actively seek out distractions on the intertubes (as if there aren’t enough to begin with!) Being around other flesh-and-blood people is critical to staying grounded, and really helps me to focus and stay motivated, rather than distracting me. I’m not the only member of Team Z in a co-working setup, either. Our man Steve Kradel is a recent convert down in Philadelphia.

I mentioned my problem to Lennon/R-Coder last year at RubyFringe, and he said something to the effect of, “dude, you need to get out of your house! Find a coworking space!” I’d never heard of such a thing, but The Bossman went and looked up Williamsburg Coworking, and I’ve been there almost every work day since. My productivity shot up by a lot (we checked, using Tempo!) I get to work with really smart people like Alexis and Stan from Percent Mobile, I’m in a creative environment, I have people to talk to, and it’s really easy to stay focused. Can’t recommend it enough. If you’re looking for a space in your city, get in touch. There’s quite a network of coworkers out there (ours spread across some 47 cities) who’d be glad to have your company, and I’d be happy to put anyone in touch, just send me an email.

On a tangential note, I saw this great interview with Amanda Palmer, which has some delicious quotes about staying on your work (or not!):

I got to a certain point where I realized that the voices in my head were working on an old, conditioned blueprint of what it actually means to be fulfilled and happy.

Slowly, I started to let that blueprint go and starting to improvise another one, just for the day. And now, I draw a new blueprint every day and then set it on fire at the end of the night. I think the key for me has been realizing that every day and week and month is an improvisation…and that I can never define my success or happiness by last week’s measuring stick…I wrote when I feel like it, and I don’t feel catholic guilt anymore when I don’t.

Interesting stuff, and as a song-writer myself, I know that guilt, I know it well. Obviously, composition and programming aren’t the same thing, but you do have to know when to walk away and recharge. Having other people around can help prevent you from banging your head on your desk instead of relaxing and trying to look at things differently. It’s time we all started valuing one another’s company more.

Zetetic is the creator of the encrypted iPhone data vault and password manager Strip and the open source encryption-enhanced database engine SQLCipher.

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