I’ve said in the previous essay that I’ve started regularly publishing again, but I’ve omitted the details: I’ve made a 1000€ bet with a friend that I’m going to publish every week. The bet is so high because I want it to be something meaningful, something that will push me better than a minuscule 10€ bet or something similar.
There’s a catch, though: I can always quit if I announce my resignation a week before. But, since I’m publishing on Fridays, I never have enough time to decide if I want to publish the next week. The weekend goes by so fast, so unfortunately for some and fortunately for others, it looks like I’m stuck with publishing every week.
I don’t feel too pressured because I have a trick up my sleeve: I can always fall back to writing about writing if I don’t have any ideas on what to write. I can write about that for days, which is why I consider it a black hole for my thinking. So if you see an essay about writing from me, know that I didn’t have any other interesting ideas that week. Yes. This essay is partially about writing. Sorry about that.
As always, my dear subscriber, thank you for reading this weird mix of personal essays combined with notes on building and working in tech.
This week I didn’t think deeply about anything in particular, which is funny because my Twitter bio says “There’s no bigger act of self-love than giving yourself time each day to ponder.” So I guess I haven’t been very self-loving this week. But then again — I know that’s not true. So time for the bio update.
I’ve been focused on building things lately, which also feels very pleasurable. Building things as a form of loving self. Thank you for coming to my TED talk.
I don’t love writing, and I don’t love programming. I love what they give me back. Strange thing to say from someone who spends most time either programming or writing, right? Well, I don’t love them in isolation.
If I loved programming, I would probably be nerding out on some esoteric problem in a computer science department of some faculty. If I loved writing, I would probably write poetry or short stories, read and memorize Shakespeare and learn more about English grammar and style.
But the truth is that I only love programming because it allows me to build things that I wish existed. It allows me to solve real-life problems. Seeing what I imagined work in the real world will never stop feeling magical. It’s not that interesting to me on its own.
Which is why I’m enjoying working on Ciklus these past 14 months. Since I use it every day now, it has taught me a lot. For example, I thought the design was mainly about how things look, but now I realize that’s not the case. The gradient text and buttons are not the main things because that doesn’t matter if an app is not intuitive.
Design is just answering these hundreds of small questions that pop up as soon as you start thinking about how some action will be performed. Great design answers these questions in a genius way by thinking deeply about the action and the solution, almost completely disregarding how difficult something is to implement. Bad design answers them in the most convenient way for the maker. In that sense, bad design is similar to bad programming. The stupidest thing that could possibly work is usually not the right answer.
When I started working on Ciklus, I remember complaining to a friend about writing because it started to feel too theoretical. I remember him telling me that I should write because I would be regarded as an intellectual because I would develop intellectually if I worked on my writing skills, and me not being impressed by that. It sounded too status-oriented for me. So I thought I would much rather be building things. But then I thought a little deeper about it and wrote this:
Writing makes me pry myself open and spill myself like a cut sack of marbles before the reader, be it myself or a total stranger. A force within that I don’t fully understand pushes me to do that. I have to listen to that force, or else I start living a lie.
I don’t love all writing. But I do love personal writing because it gives me something back immediately. It reveals things I hadn’t realized about myself before I started writing. So it’s essentially a tool of self-discovery. That’s why it’s interesting, like how programming was never interesting for its own sake for me.
So I never really liked school. Everything was taught in isolation, without explaining why we are learning what we are. That might be my biggest gripe with formal education in Croatia. No one gives any context as to why something is taught. It just is. Because someone very smart higher-up said so.
Imagine learning physics, math, or chemistry by trying to solve the problems that the people who discovered the theorems solved. But the school is not interested in that. There’s no money to improve the real goal of school, which is babysitting these kids while their parents are working their full-time jobs.
I love programming, but I love it because it allows me to build things that I want to exist outside of my imagination. The high-school programming tests consisted of solving imaginary problems by writing C code on paper. That was also how the first college test looked.
Thankfully the educators didn’t completely put out the interest I had for programming since I was a little kid. When I discovered that I could build Twitter with Rails, it became super interesting again. So interesting that I stopped playing computer games. I only wanted to build Rails apps.
Similarly, I only love writing because it allows me to explore. It allows me to learn about things I didn’t know beforehand, learn about myself, and figure out what I know or, more often, don’t know about a topic.