Where Is Your Passion?

I keep wondering if I’m the only one in this world who has such dominant sinusoidal waves of interest in creating something new. My weeks consist of peaks and troughs in areas of development that keep me travelling on a roller-coaster of passionate coding, sometimes very late into the night.

I love that feeling, when I have something in the front of my mind that takes my full attention. Especially when that attention requirement allows me to fall behind on my favourite TV shows, or miss a gaming weekend special on whatever I’m into at that time. It’s a welcome period of what feels like total clarity, like a protective bubble around a pool of thought.

The problem is that the peak doesn’t last forever. Once my clarity has served its purpose and I’ve delivered on my subconsciously-agreed minimum goal, it begins to subside.

I hate that phase.

Sometimes I’m able to delay it by stumbling across an addition I could make, bringing a second wind coding coma that locks me down for another night or two; but it won’t hold longer than that. Eventually it ends. I burn out.

The next few days are crucial in the devstrual cycle. I look at what I achieved over and over again, every morning, lunch and evening. I’ll read through what I wrote, critique it to myself, all the while I judge its usefulness for both myself and the world.

It helps when you have a project that takes off, like an open source project that actually gets used. There’s a fulfilling excitement I get from pushing code that solves someone’s problem, even if I don’t know who that person is or I don’t even get gratitude for it. The anonymity of the benefactor makes the process feel like there’s a barrier to its success. If I spent my three or four peak days coding something that someone can reject, it throws the whole cycle out of sync. These particular projects are not for them, they are for me. Don’t be fooled.

I should point out that these phases strictly only affect my personal time. My day job seems unaffected, although there are other phases specifically for my job that happen in much shorter, reliable intervals. Iterations, environment, quality of work, and immediate feedback for my day job pretty much isolate these cycles from one-another. I can go home and have a terrible night without a passion to code anything, but go to work the next day and be more productive than I’ve ever been before, so long as the right influences are there (and they often are).

So, how does this thing actually work?

Well, I don’t know. I have ideas, like perhaps there’s some correlation with the energy my body has. My sporting activities are somewhat sporadic, which over time might appear to be waves at varying amplitude and length, but I’ve never taken notes to get hard evidence. Could it be water? Drinking more water tends to help me focus, but does it help me be more passionate? How about diet — when I was a vegetarian for a month, I remember not having much of a problem focussing, but back then I had a different lifestyle. So, is it lifestyle? Does waking up at 7:15 and going to sleep at 10:30 guarantee a passion to code?

There’s too many variables. But, it does seem to come in waves.

I’d like to know what happens to other developers at night. Do you have passion to develop in your own time? Have you noticed a pattern in enthusiasm or productivity? Is this something I can control to eventually ride the peak indefinitely?

Just in case you are wondering, at the time of writing this post I feel like I’m just about to begin the climb into another passionate ascent. That feeling is very retrospective, fuelled by the anger and frustration of not using my time effectively. It will start soon. Hopefully I’ll have something for you in a week.

Dave.

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