I’m a person who’s always been intensely creative. I first became interested in the field of software development for the same reason a lot of kids my age first got hooked on the idea: I wanted to make games. I asked my dad to teach me BASIC on our C64 before I could even consistently write cohesive sentences. By the time I was leaving elementary school, I was trying to figure out how to use it to make adventure games. I wasn’t very successful with that at the time, but I didn’t give up. I got into web development by the time I entered high school, and made several websites for myself and friends. I eventually began to understand how to create more complex software, and I loved what I could create and display to the world with just my own computer and some research. Being able to do this made me feel Powerful™️.
I began learning how to compose and produce my own music when I was a still a junior. I learned to DJ — getting to perform at dozens of events over the course of several years. I produced hundreds of songs (and I continue producing them, today). I even tried to start a record label with some friends, a few years out of high school - though sadly, I ran out of steam before it went anywhere. Music became a major passion for me, whether or not I was making money from it. It still is.
Unfortunately, though, I’ve been resigned to music and other creative work being just a hobby for many years. After the label didn’t work out (at least, not in the somewhat fantastical way I had hoped for at the time), I decided to put all my efforts into becoming an engineer, thinking that art was a dead end for me. I went into full-time software development work. As much as I’ve enjoyed doing that, it absolutely become harder and harder to be able to spend time working on music or other creative pursuits. Working often took so much out of me. But, thankfully, I was operating under the assumption that this, in fact, was my TRUE calling, all along, and convinced myself that all this was fine.
10 years later, it’s hard for me to say if I was right or wrong about that. I lost my last engineering job in September of last year — a very rough year, for many reasons — and spent several months deliberating over which companies to interview with, and trying to deal with newfound feelings of uncertainty and hopelessness. Faced with unemployment for the first time in my life, I’ve had my first real opportunity to seriously re-consider where I’m headed and whether I think it’ll make me happy or not. I’ve always just had the Next Job ahead of me, the higher rung to climb up to. Now, though, I’m at a crossroads, with many possible ways to proceed. Am I an engineer, or an artist? Both? Neither?
The answer to that is complex. I really enjoy engineering work, and have been on some incredible teams, but I can have a hard time feeling like I fit in at a workplace. I’m trans, non-binary and on the spectrum, and it feels like there’s sometimes a gap for me to bridge with some prospective employers and teammates. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t extremely daunting to navigate that. I also tend to benefit from being able to have a lot of solitary focus on what I’m doing. Open-plan offices can be a challenge, and I find meetings to be often very disruptive.
It’s also been harder to justify continuing to be a part of an industry that, lately, seems to be doing a lot of things in ways that are… distressing, and not inspiring of a lot of trust (I’ve backed out of more than one interview on moral grounds, just in the past six months).
As it turns out, I’ve realized that I still really want to do creative work. I’ve wanted it for many years, and I’ve always had a good reason for not doing it at various points (money is important, sometimes!). I think now, though, is the best chance I’ve ever had to go for it, especially given a supportive and sustainable living situation (something I count myself as incredibly lucky to have access to). I’ve received a lot of encouragement to just take this plunge and see where it leads, whether or not it goes where I’m hoping.
I want to build, write, and design lots of things. I want to express my vision and creativity, and hopefully create things that people can enjoy. I plan to be participating in game jams (Ludum Dare 41 is coming up soon), working on art, releasing albums, and brainstorming what other kinds of things I can offer up. Tutorials in written and/or video form are absolutely under consideration. Music videos would be grand. I eventually would like to create some larger-scope games, too. It’s likely that I’m going to work all this into a Patreon. I’ve got some things to figure out, first, but I’m starting to build the mental picture of where I’m headed.
I can Do This. It may take me a year, or two, or three to build momentum and start seeing success, but… even so, I can do this.
I’m also scared, because this is a new world for me to explore. I have no idea where I’m going, and I have very little in way of a road map. I know that I can do a lot of things, but harnessing those various skills into being a successful independent creator still involves a lot of unknowns. I’ve got to talk to people, ask for help, do research, experiment, and iterate. I’m not used to embarking on things without a really good idea of how they’re going to go, but there’s a first time for everything.
I’ll be talking more in this space about my experiences as I get started with this new endeavor, learn new skills, further develop skills I already have, and make cool things. Please follow me here and on Twitter if you’d like to be a part of that journey. Thank you for listening and letting me share my passions with you. Be well.❤️💟