As a kid, when I thought about the future, becoming a software developer was not what immediately came to mind. I loved technology - I learned to write in BASIC at the same time as English - but it was always at its best when it was in service of a story. I wrote small text adventure games and built simple animations.
Those were the programs that captured my imagination, too: LucasArts adventure games like The Secret of Monkey Island and adventures like Infocom's The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, which Douglas Adams himself had helped write. They were stories, first and foremost, which happened to be enabled by technology.
I wanted to be a writer.
I still do.
The pandemic has led to many changes in my life. I spend most of my time in Santa Rosa, working remotely as the Head of Engineering for ForUsAll during the day and helping to care for my mother when I'm not behind my laptop. In some ways, I consider myself perversely lucky: her decline has coincided with a time that I'm able to work from anywhere. The hit to my personal life aside, it's worked out pretty well.
But I need something else - something that's mine, beyond the demands of my job and caring for my family. I've decided to give myself the gift of making space for my first love. I won't say exactly what I'm working on (I don't want to jinx it), but I've spent the summer taking classes and workshops on improving my plot and character skills. My aim is to have a first draft written by the end of November - and who knows what will happen after that.
It's been interesting to juxtapose the needs of plot and character with the product work I do every day. While the former is built from imagination, and the latter from research, they're oddly similar skills. Every product can be described in the framework of a three act structure; every target user has internal and external motivations that form the basis of a compelling solution.
But that's not why I'm turning my attention to writing. I'm doing it because telling stories is something I find joy in. It's not to make a living or to improve my day job. It's not even because I think I'll be good at it (because, to be absolutely honest, I don't know).
It's none of those things. It's simply because I want to - and that's more than enough. It's something I can control, that allows me to be meditative and creative, that nobody can touch. And right now in particular, that couldn't be more valuable to me.