I have a favorite question to ask people on interviews for software development: “Do you see programming as an art or a science?” There is no “right” answer to the question, I want to see how they answer it. For me the answer is both. While technical competency is critical, the mark of a truly talented software developer, or more accurately, designer is a creative spirit. While a nice lead in, my interview question only partly relates to what I thought I’d write about. The last few days of crappy weather have put me in a thoughtful mood, one where I found myself settling on the topic of creativity and what makes people (or more importantly, me) happy.
Looking at software again, the aspect of development that kept me up at night, brain turning, writing notes, forcing me to go into the office early was the challenge of solving the problem. Let someone else do the execution, that is the gear turning part, the true joy comes in figuring out how to make the machine. And I’m really good at designing the software machine. The challenge and sometimes frustration comes when I have the passion but not the skill (yet) to execute what I can see in my head.
My photography is definitely at that stage. I love photography but haven’t reached the point where I can always capture what I see in my mind’s eye. I am very proud of what I have produced, have filled my house with great art that I created, and enjoy looking and having it looked at. However, it doesn’t feel like I have “got it” yet. There is something that seems just out of reach, as if it were right there that if I could just get my hands on it, everything would click. When Tiffany and I saw an exhibit of Ansel Adams it is blindingly obvious that he had that thing. Whatever that thing is.
It makes me think of when I was a kid. My father was a very talented artist; painting, drawing, doodles all over the place. It was as if his mind could not function if he didn’t keep that part of his brain busy. It is an an aspect I did not think I had inherited but maybe I have, just in different mediums.
It is cool that the desire to create seems independent of the tools. For me it can be capturing a beautiful image, creating a wonderful meal, writing an elegant email on a meaningless topic, developing a cool solution to a computer problem, building a simple, clean website, or even just a nice turn of phrase. The urge to create is a great thing and it is amazing how satisfying it is.