Creative Frustration

July 15, 2002

I am finding myself more and more frustrated with my job. For years I've told people that I get paid to play. However, the past few years this has been less and less true. There is a progression that happens as a software developer, you start as a programmer and advance through various jobs until one day you still think of yourself as a coder, but you are really an administrator of coders. This is fine (actually it pays better that coding) but you start to lose those perishable skills that made you good at your job in the first place.

I spent the first half of this year learning new techniques and languages so we could deploy a J2EE application. It was exciting, challenging, and most of all fun. Now our priorities have shifted and I need to re-introduce myself with a development platform I haven't used in several years. I understand the language and the concepts behind it very well. But I am rusty when it comes to actually doing it. This is frustrating. Things that should take me a couple of minutes end up taking hours. I know that my skills will come back, but in the mean time I do not like this assignment at all.

The other piece that makes this job frustrating now, one that I haven't experienced before, is the lack of creativity required. For years every new assignment held something new, something I could be creative with. Lately I've been doing the same kinds of tasks over and over. The need for creativity is lost. And the lack of creativity is missed. It is odd that I enjoy and even seek out repetition in some areas of my life, but that I don't like it at work.

In the past week I received a new digital camera from my wife as an anniversary present. It has opened up a whole vista of creative possibilities. Almost too many as I feel overwhelmed when I look at all the picture possibilities around me. As I dive into this new creative experience I find the lack of creativity required currently at work less bothersome (I am finding release through the camera) and more troubling (work just isn't as much fun anymore).

Over all I suppose I have some balance thanks to the camera, I am getting to be creative whereas prior to its arrival I didn't have the outlet it provides. Still it shines a brighter light on the creative darkness at work. I know that in a few months when this project is completed I'll have another opportunity to tackle something new and be creative again. In the meantime, I am frustrated.

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Mark H. Nichols

I am a husband, cellist, code prole, nerd, technologist, and all around good guy living and working in fly-over country. You should follow me on Twitter.