On finishing and releasing personal projects
Releasing a personal project is hard and satisfying. crystallizing an idea and maintaining focus and motivation for weeks, months or years is challenging.
For me, going through all the stages of a project is what makes personal projects valuable. You rarely have that opportunity in a big project for a company where conventions are already in place, decisions about technologies and project tools have been already made.
That's why I think it's awesome to have a tool (programming/design/writing) to materialize ideas and creating personal projects is a great way to improve skills. You have to decide what's the scope, what tools and constraints you will use and find ways to sustain your motivation.
In this post I'll talk about things that have worked for me .
"This is not even my final form"... Your idea #
- Saw something inspiring
- Suddenly I want to experiment and create something
- I started the exploration process and discover something else
- Now, my focus shifted and I realized my real interest was pursuing idea B
Starting is key #
Things get easier when you just start, that's true.
We can spend a lot of time in our heads but its action what reveals new paths
that wouldn't have been evident with just planning
Journaling is helpful for untangling thoughts #
Finding dead ends #
After working on your idea for days/weeks or months you may find a block that seems imposible to overcome.
Maybe you feel that your skill is not enough for the problem you are tackling, or there's another difficulty like:
- Loss of motivation
- Feeling that the state of the project is a mess
- Doubting if it's valuable
- Need tools that cost more money than you have
What to do?
When I found myself in any of the previous situations I felt frustrated and my mindstate changed. Sometimes you know you only need more work and even if you are tired doing a little more work will be needed.
Other times you just run out of mental fuel and things will look imposible even if they are not.
Having other sources of intellectual satisfaction is very useful. Physical excercise is also very effective to reset your frustration and more than once, going out for a walk or doing a 20 min workout at home has unblocked me.
Ideas worth pursuing #
What's your criteria to pursue an idea and take action on it?
- It's cool
- I have a burning desire to materialize it
- It will be useful to me
- It's challenging, I want to test myself
- It will be valuable to others
I won't tell you which criteria is better than others, however you have to take a look at the incentives and what will happen when you find a task that may be tedious or boring. Depending on your motivation you will continue or procastinate.
For example "being valuable to others" may be a good incentive to a group of peole if they have skin in the game, for example someone wants to help people with a health condition because they have a relative that has it and they know of the struggles.
For others, intelectual challenges are a serious thing and they'll persist until finished. I personally like the idea of creating something that I want and could not find elsewhere (or current alternatives are not ok). I can be specific with my needs instead of trying to think about hypothetical needs of an audience. This worked well with diagram.codes, inevitably
someone else will have a very similar need and will appreciate the work.
Some failures may be prerequisite for a future success. #
Some materialized ideas may not be what you expect (specially on early stages)
and will look simplistic, nonsense, etc. However (and it's difficult to know at the time) they may have planted the seeds for a future idea.
I'm amazed at the power of our brains to connect dots from everywhere. That's why observing without judging is a good skill to cultivate, eventually disconnected observations, results and ideas can result in something that would have been very difficult to think about without all the previous experience (it may be something very different).