Sunday, September 25, 2016

Short bursts of motivation

I start missing my moments of hobby programming again. Since my last job/relocation/new job I haven't even coded for a hobby while I was dreaming of things to start and ideas I want to experiment with. Of course it was a hard period, when you have to take care other more important things like being unemployed, moving house and generally feeling depressed. So, I was like fuck it, I am gonna relax for few months.

But now I settled in, the little sparkles of motivation have started again. But they are short. That's one thing I notice now. At least I manage to tackle them and also my lack of will by coding little random here and there. And I felt it works and maybe I'll keep it. If you can't think of working on a big project because of the dread you feel, just open the compiler and try something small for half an hour. Maybe test an algorithm, an optimization, try a new system, commit a bit of code in old abandoned repos, etc. It sort of works.

And now I am thinking it, a lot of my coding activity was fragmented. Unless it's a full time job or collaboration with people where you can't just fool around, doing some hobby stuff for the kicks or internet recognition or whatever, either it's indie or demoscene or any other thing, I never manage to focus and work steadily on something for few months. Even if I could say to myself "Work on this one project 1-2 hours per day every day and then do whatever you want" I can still not put myself on it. It's always a sudden inspiration where I am at the right place and time with a compiler and there is a spark of "I want to try this". And if I get this sudden inspiration and don't follow it, like let's cook something first and watch youtube before I start this, or even something happens or someone calls me, then I lose it, I come back later and it's a bit late and I am like "Fuck it! It's 9pm, I want to rest the last two hours before going to bed".

It might work for demoscene, sort of. Produces many mediocre demos. I must have never worked steadily on a demo for more than a month and usually it's even 2 weeks before the deadline where 90% of the work falls. There is never a constant flow of motivation where I work even for 1 hour every day on one project. And sometimes I might code something small on a Saturday and then not touch any code for two weeks or a month, then come back to it for 3-5 random days in 2 weeks, then leave it again and then there are a lot of repos with stuff and bigger things I wanted to start but never did. Yes, I love now to create repos, I also love to make lists of what crazy dreams I'd like to start working on, tell my friends about them, give weird amazing names to demos and projects but never even start. Few of them do get started and they end up mediocre.

But I am thinking I wish to move in new territories. One of them is games. I adore some indie games, I think indie development is the way to fulfil your game ideas without anyone having control on the creative process. I find myself imagining some game ideas that would be cool to create, or for example lamenting the lack of proper retro FPS games and thinking "Hmm,. if I argue so much, maybe I should make a retro FPS game of my liking". I would really like to get into hobby indie gamedev at some point.

Another territory I am thinking about for over a year is creating specific series of youtube videos. Sometimes I watch some gaming videos where they try to explain graphics in shallow ways and it makes me mad and I thought I could explain it better. Or I want to make some critic on video games like a comparison of oldschool and newschool FPS maps, or imagining ways I could render some animations to explain specific concept in a visual way that is both appealing and not shallow, so anyway I was playing with this idea and what tools to use or maybe start a codebase to render the little minimalistic animations I want with code, bought a better microphone for this which I never used, and I know youtube business needs to be very focused like a job and I am not even thinking of it as a business rather that I'd love to explain some concepts from graphics, demoscene, retro machines or oldschool gaming in a proper way, discuss the things that are never discussed but not in ways that make them shallow nor hard to get into. Big dreams. I can't even spend time to make a let's play youtube video sound alright. I understand now how much work is behind regular youtube channels.

So, I have these two areas which I realise need a different strategy. These cannot function (especially the youtube thing) by sporadically working on stuff whenever motivated. Maybe the gamedev can in a sense, if I promise to myself that whenever I code something it will be one single project, stop making demos, not jumping from platform to platform, and this could take some more time and maybe there will be moments of laziness or when I am in holidays and I can't work, that's ok. But it has to be one project for a long and never abandon, even if some days you don't code. Youtube is harder and easier. Harder because you might have to provide (although you could say one good quality video per month) and easier because each video is a small release, unlike a game where it's a big project for many months if not years.

And that's the issue. I can't imagine those successful indie developers working like me. I imagine them in a constant flow of motivation for months, building and growing, and yes maybe there are moments of burnout, where a developer doesn't want to code anything for a week, but then he comes back and works from where he left it, not grab a new project.

My problem is, if I am motivated at all (and I do question why am I motivated for hobby programming at all) I start with something and then abandon it, maybe few of the code is eventually used in a semi-finished demo (like an abandoned repo that I found after a year and finalized it under pressure in a compo deadline).

But the problem is not just lack of focus, it's a general dread I feel whenever I am excited about starting something creative. Maybe the fact that I know I have to encounter this procrastination, the uneasy feelings that if I start this I might fail to continue again, or unless it grows into a big release it's meaningless, so if I am at 5% of the code I am afraid it will be for nothing if not finishing it, which I know takes time. And also a dread of one part of myself which says enough, creativity shouldn't be like this.

Now, since I tested this other method, of never thinking about the above, never thinking about the final product, just code some semi-random stuff to keep you working. That works better when you have more unique things to work for. I was working on 256tros (saved them in big repo among with older code for futrure reference), then switched to some experimental DOS coding, then one day I wanted to check SNES coding which is exciting and new (now I left it), then went back to DOS coding, then dreamed of some other new stuff and old stuff, made lists, planned to make my Procrastinopolis platform which is nonsense and fun :)

It's ok, I code more than the last 3 months. But these days I was feeling whoozy again, because the feeling of never actually finishing something, which I shouldn't think. And then I thought that at one point I want to take the opportunity to focus on one big project. When this happens it will be established motivation which might not last but I would have to strategically prepare and think of a way to keep this in focus even if the development is slow (but if it's slow, I get the feeling this will never be released, but do I want this to be released just to get rid of the development?)

Or I feel I will never get into the big things. It's a misconception that it takes genius to create great stuff, all it takes is a great deal of perseverance. I am only wondering if most of us are naturally lacking this and that's why we never reach our dreams.

p.s. I keep thinking of this problem again, if you can call it a problem. Procrastination. From what? Responsibilities? No,. right now I don't have any responsibilities. I mean besides work and basic stuff. Free time. How to motivate myself to use it for creative purposes. And the question is why? Why do I want this? Why not just finish my day by relaxing activities? So many questions and so many misconceptions about what I really want and whether I am procrastinating or that is normal.

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