Why I Never Finish Side Projects

If you’re anything like me, you’re always trying to get better at the things you love. For me day in and day out that is programming and playing music. In an effort to improve these skills, I try to learn at least a few new things a week that are outside of my knowledge base.

Recently I was looking for some advice on how to ramp up my coding skills. I found this Stack Overflow question that had some great pointers. The tip about studying patterns really stuck out like a sore thumb to me for some reason. I know these patterns but how come I don’t ever actively consider them when I’m writing code? Or is it something that just radiates in my subconscious? I mulled it over for a couple days and tried to figure out why it was bothering me so much. It finally hit me at the coffee shop this afternoon.

I haven’t been properly laying out a strategy to begin my projects. When it comes to programming, I’ll draw a wireframe and then just start banging out the code. Sometimes I’ll layout a skeletal class or two but this is pretty rare.

With music, it’s usually worse. I’ll just find a tone I like and start noodling until I find a melody or riff I can start off with. Then begin to build from there. I always thought the best way to write music was on an impulse and I thought it worked best for me. Clearly I am not a fan of having restricted structure. For some reason I always felt it inhibited my creativity.

After carefully considering both of these points, I realized I’ve been doing it all wrong this whole time. This is one of the biggest reasons I think why I never end up finishing my side projects. I can finish songs and I can write a 500 line class no problem but I’ve never built a finished product that I was proud to present to the public. This realization was very demoralizing.

So how am I going to fix it? My number one goal for this year is to focus. When I make music, I’m going to lay out a plan for achieving the sound/emotion I want to portray and I’m going to stick to that path. If I have an idea I want to program, not only am I going to wireframe it but I’m going to write skeletal code and develop a schematic for the whole build. Of course these plans will be changed and adapted along the way but they will help me focus on achieving my goals instead of always half assing it.

I will release an EP this year and I will finish at least one open source project. I’m not a believer in talking about it ruins it. I will achieve these goals.

“To accomplish great things, we must not only act but also dream, not only plan but also believe.” – Anatole France

14 January 2012