I remember the exact room I was in the first time I realised that, for me, programming was about more than just solving problems. It was shortly before graduating from University, and I was sat in a meeting room in the Imagination Technologies office in Leeds. My soon-to-be-boss asked me:
“If you weren’t a programmer, what other job would you do?”
No one had ever asked me that before. And I don’t think I’ve ever been asked since. But thinking about it for all of 10 seconds, I realised that I wanted to create things, no matter what job I had.
It’s taken me a long time to accept that it’s OK to want to build things with software that doesn’t simultaneously solve a problem. It’s OK to write code for the sake of it.
Because, personally, writing code feels a lot like practicing a craft. Yes, you get better the more you do it. But it also fulfills a deep-seated desire to bring something into the world that didn’t exist before. Not that I’m saying no one’s ever written a boot loader before, but no one’s ever written a boot loader that way I wrote mine.
Viewed this way, side projects take on a whole new purpose. They’re a great way to exercise your creativity. You need side projects, not necessarily to learn new skills, but to use the ones you already have.
Writing code isn’t just about solving problems. It’s also good for the soul.