My Processor or My Guitar?

Posted on Oct 20, 2010

Surprisingly many people I’ve talked to wonder how I consider myself an artist and a programmer. I think I end up explaining it every now and again because they see the two as polar opposites. Programming is technical, mathematic, left-brain stuff while music is very creative, wild, and emotive. After all, when was the last time you walked away from your computer and wept? A good song can do that to you.

However I think they are very much two sides of the same coin. The key difference, and this is what I struggle with, is where you get the satisfaction that motivates you to do more of it. Programming isn’t something that will drain me emotionally and bring back memories from different parts of my life. I don’t finish writing a program and and get the same deep connection I share with music. But it’s still a very creative act and shares a lot in common with music — I still have to practice a lot, I have to learn a code and language to express my ideas, and it takes a lot of dedication to see all that practice to the point where it begins to pay off. On the other hand, sometimes I’ll be sitting with my guitar at night just plucking a few strings and something just comes out that makes me shake my head and sigh. They’re both highly technical skills that take years of practice and dedication to master, but here’s the secret: Programming gives me more satisfaction when more people use it.

Music though… that little ditty I played almost randomly alone in my room? I’ll spend the rest of my life playing that song over and over and I’ll get really good at playing it. I’ll play it harder and with more intensity each time. But no matter how many times I play that damn song — it will never be as good as the first time alone in my room.

Software though is much different. It gets better every time. Every time someone sends me a patch. Every time I learn something new. The joy I get out of that program only increases over time.

So it’s a hard battle between the two in my mind, at least creatively.