How Making Stupid Shit made me a better developer. Maybe
This is the final part in my series about depression and burnout, where the goal is to speak about what I am doing and what I have done in tandem with a proper therapist and some reflection.
In the first post, I talk about how changing your habits can change your outlook.
In the second post, I talk about how changing your perception can change your behavior.
And in this post, I am going to talk about how creating things can tie it all together, and give you something to look back on positively to boost your confidence.
Not related, but in my search to find things to build, I decided that this blog is a good place to start. So far, it has been a fun way to express myself outside of programming.
What is the problem?
I remember going through phases of burnout...
When I first started programming, I would stare at screens and books and think I was never going to succeed. I kept running through examples until I learned the thing. I would walk away proud of myself often.
This got old. Things got harder. I got my first job and worked as hard as I could, but couldn't find that pride I had before. Something about the daily grind threw me off. I wouldn't realize it for another 7 years, but it would lead to me almost ending my life. (Sorry for being dark and not elaborating!)
What can we do to fix it?
I propose the idea of making stupid shit. Building projects that exist to make you smile; or to play around with a concept; or even cause they don't exist yet.
Wanna build an app that counts the number of pizza slices you eat per year? Why not. How about an app that makes a fart noise when you shake your phone? Go for it!
The point is, building things without the stress of deadlines, clean code, or even usefulness can help you to flex your coding muscles, build good habits, and generally bring some levity back to programming.
Why does this work? (Maybe...)
This is all a theory, but I have done some research. Enough to annoy my therapist.
Studies show that people will often take shortcuts, or find ways to undervalue large projects. (They aren't perfect, you copied chunks, etc)
With small projects, you get less opportunity to doubt yourself. You spend less mental effort visualizing your success on a small scale, and there is less play between the cause and effect of your actions.
And there is the sheer quantity of success. I feel a lot better looking at a pile of 10 done small projects then I do at 1 halfway done large project. One looks daunting, the other looks encouraging.
How should you get started?
My recommendation is to play around with idea generators like https://byrdseed.com/emoji/ and use that to create the fastest project you are capable of. If you are just getting started, and you see a rice emoji and a train emoji, build an app in your preferred language that will scroll rice emojis across the screen.
When I was having issues coming up with ideas, I decided to build an emotion journal, based on the website above itself. Tracking my emotion with an emoji as often as possible. In the future, this will allow me to build graphs to judge how well any of my depression fixers will work.
Most important, is that you can build it quickly and that it's fun.
I hope you like this post! Leave some comments on how you are fighting the beast. Thanks, folks!