Music and code

On Monday, I will start at Makers Academy, a highly selective bootcamp which teaches web development using Ruby and Test Driven Development. The application process has forced me to truly consider why I want to pursue a career in this field. Initially, when I first gave coding a concerted effort approximately a year ago, I was hooked. I believe that you can objectively measure your enjoyment of something by the rate at which you lose track of time while doing that thing. I remember asking myself where four or five hours from my life at a stretch were disappearing to while coding. But I was okay with it because I didn’t see it as time wasted, I was being productive. Although I have had some gaps in my coding experience due to various reasons, from now my Github contribution history is going to go from Boris Johnson to more like Oscar the Grouch, that is, from white to a deeper green.

Anyway, my idea for this piece was to tease out the reasons behind my passion for coding by drawing a parallel with one of my other major passions — music. Here are three things I can think of:

Using a tool to create

In music, we have instruments — guitars, drums, vocals. Programmers use instruments of their own, an ever-growing array (hehe) of various programming languages and frameworks. In my opinion, in both pursuits, you will excel if you have flair or knack for the tools being used. I believe that some people just have music in their DNA, that they are hard-wired at birth for the creation and/or enjoyment of music. In a similar way, I believe some people have a better grasp of programming — the language itself is irrelevant — more the concepts behind it. However, my belief about grasping programming concepts isn’t black or white, I feel like it’s a very welcoming pursuit as long as you put in the work.

Furthermore, I do enjoy the repeated use of said instruments, leading to the potential mastery or expertise of them. I have played various musical instruments for many years and my programming experience is also growing. I want it to become second nature, I like the prospect of creating something as second nature, it’s almost like adding a limb or a brain function (technically it is, see neuroplasticity). Also, while mastery does seem like a pipe dream, I do believe it is good to aim high.

Meaningful creations

Both pursuits are very fulfilling and can aid in creating a sense of purpose. The feeling I get when people tell me they love a song I wrote is matchless. This can only be rivalled by hearing someone singing one of my songs. It’s indescribable and the only way to feel something like that is by doing it yourself. Similarly, programmers have made a difference to the world. And I don’t just mean something direct like an app that donates money for every mile you run (eg. Charity Miles) but even something like Skype that people in my generation may take for granted. My (old) dad told me about a time when he was in summer camp and his mum used the post to communicate with him, a letter would take at least five days to get to him. Now you can speak to a loved one who is on the other side of the world at the drop of a hat. This makes a world of difference if one needs to speak to someone who may be in their last moments and otherwise would not be able to be there physically.

Outlet for inspiration

Everyone has had off days. When writing music, sometimes I will push and push and nothing comes out and other days it will take no effort for a lot to come out (I did not mean for that to sound so much like constipation). The same is true for me when coding. While I do have the off days, I live for the on days. Where I can write lines and lines of code and roll with the punches debugging. And it does make me feel better, like therapy.

And there you have it, why I believe I want to code for a living. I guess it titillates the same spots in my brain that music does. I can harness a tool to create something meaningful, and all the while have an outlet for my inspiration.

If by any chance you’re interested, you can check out some of my music at here.