Side-projects, grunt work and then some..

After graduating from Georgia Tech, a bone fracture I encountered while playing, restricted outdoor activities for several months. Moving to a new city and starting work at a new place also made things cumbersome. I had a full-time job, but what I also had was some free time after work because I couldn’t go out and play. I used this time to hack on side-projects at home.

Sustaining interest while working on your own can be tricky. You might think that all you need to do is to choose a project and just start hacking away. But as things usually turn out, it is a bit more complicated than that. While the initial excitement of working on something new propels you for a day or two, you will eventually start hitting problems that are harder to solve. These problems need not even be hard per se, it could just be that the problem you have hit is plain, unsexy and requires grunt work. This is usually the point when a hobby project gets abandoned. You console yourself saying you will come back to it later. But that never happens and it sits in a folder on your computer, occupying magnetized areas in the harddrive platter, until the harddrive crashes.

I have a lot of such folders in my laptop. :-) The stuff listed on the Projects page of this website are the ones where I managed to put in the grunt work to get over the humps. Over time, I figured out that there is this sweet spot for sustaining interest in a project when working on my own. It is about choosing the right kind of projects when you are starting out. The project needs to have an element of novelty to it so you get that initial excitement. But you also shouldn’t be completely blank about how you are going to build it. There also has to be several unknowns in the project so you can have moments where you say ‘Aha!’ and feel euphoric when it all works out. But it also should be within your reach. And finally you should be learning something new to make it all worthwhile. Ze Frank explains this concept very well in the video below:

As you get better at sustaining interest, you can do grunt work for longer periods of time. Right now I am in one such long grunt work period. I have several projects in pipeline mentioned below. But I need to get some groundwork done for one of them. I am testing my limits to see how long I can work on it before I get bored and build something flashy instead. I have given myself a month to read up and practice some rusty coding skills. Lets see how it goes.