I am a compulsive developer.

DISCLAIMER: This post does not describe or answer the question, “What is a good developer?” — Don’t mistake this article for describing what a good developer is.

This post is about my personal thoughts regarding my life as a compulsive developer. First I am going to explain the context and what my definition of “compulsive developer” is. Please note that hereafter I’ll refer to “compulsive developer” simply as “compulsive” for brevity. Then I will outline what I think is really good about being a compulsive developer, and I’ll wrap this up with what I think is not so good about it. I’ll also be writing the rest of this in the 2nd person, using the word “you” instead. Let me know if that bothers you, so I can write better in the future :)

So what is a compulsive developer?

So to answer this, I’ll describe the traits of what I believe to be the key markers of being a compulsive developer. Keep in mind that you can have any or all of these traits, but if you have these traits for years then like myself, you may be a compulsive developer.

You have the urgency and are compelled to build things not as a means to an end — but for the very act of building and solving problems itself.

You don’t feel like you get enough done. Another key factor is that despite all of the time you spend building things, despite all of the prototypes and all of the problems you’ve solved, it is not enough. And honestly, you probably can concede easily to the statement that it is “never enough”

What is really good about being a compulsive developer

Many will consider you to be “very” productive. This can easily give you some description by others as someone who “gets shit done” — whether or not it is “good shit” is a whole different story. I can say that from personal experience I’ve made more “bad shit” than “good”

You may have a lot of stamina with cognitive load. All of those hours and extra nights with you staying up late solving problems probably has paid off. I won’t say that you have more stamina than those who are not compulsive, but if you have been following your compulsions for years, and even decades — chances are that you have a lot of stamina.

You really enjoy it. Maybe too much. When the tasks are good, man you love your job! We’ll talk more about this later (when the tasks are bad)

What is not so good about being a compulsive developer

Some people might say that you’re the type of person who gets s*** done, but you don’t feel like you’re building enough.

Your health suffers — if you feel compelled to do something, no matter what it is, for an extended period of time chances are that you will be or have been neglecting other things that may be more important.

Family / Relationships suffer — All the extra time feeding the compulsive desire to build things can easily bleed past time with your family and those you love, which compounded over time could be far more painful than not “feeding the beast”

This line of work involves a lot more than just building things — standups, meetings, social relationships, et all, those things are harder for those who feel compelled to build. They feel like distractions, despite that they aren’t (not always) — If you are in a position where the distractions are many, you will not like your job. If you are given a lot of “boring” tasks, you will also not like your job. Anything keeping you from that rush of building something awesome is going to make you feel a little held back. Despite the fact that it might just be all in your head.

Another thing is you probably don’t feel like a productive person. You may have that nagging feeling that you just didn’t have enough time today, or you don’t have enough time to get X done, and that might cause you some stress and negatively impact your professional and personal life.

So theres my thoughts about this subject, and honestly I feel a lot better bringing this up. I don’t want to say that its all good or all bad, but I do want to say that this is who I am, where I am at, and I know I’m not alone.

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