Anguish is a recurring feeling in my creative endeavors - coding, music, or photography. The infamous code artisan™️ metaphor is now out of fashion, but some of that sensation comes from that. Value in artisan activities comes from raw resources supplemented with intellectual work. The end product then is a linear relation between ability and resources used. The better the creator, the higher the quality of the artifact produced all else being equal. At least this is the impression creative people sometimes get. To separate the human being from the creator, thus, can be a very intimidating process. The fear of not being good enough may become a dangerous steep line.
Physical goods or intellectual pursuits, it doesn't matter. As a "creativity artisan", the universe around you produces your work supplies—porcelain, clay, musical notes, and coding languages, among others. You hack them together, so they behave in a certain way in harmony. That harmony then brings value to fellow human beings. You take some of that value for yourself. The critical takeaway is that the value multiplier here is the capacity of the artisan. Notes and chords do not form a beautiful masterpiece by themselves. If and else statements do not constitute complex AI algorithms by themselves. The ability of the artisan does.
We're not educated throughout our lives to deal with what that means long term. Sure enough, strumming a few chords in a pop song might be a task completed within the first few guitar classes. Yet, I doubt you'll be playing some Alter Bridge songs on acoustic without the required effort. Likewise, putting a basic to-do list together might be simple, but designing a large-scale web app is not.
Minor frustrations accumulate over time. Not being able to play that one song after a few tries. Not solving that one bug fast enough (at least by your standards). That decisive moment won't come, and you so much needed it for that perfect photo you imagined. Those things add up. Sooner or later, the day will come in which one thought will cross your mind: Am I actually good enough for this? I've talked to coders, singers, photographers, and writers, to name a few. The question repeats itself in many shapes and forms but is always the same.
Photography holds the answer for that, and it makes sense to me to extrapolate to the other scenarios. Resort to the first time you had the instinct to pick up a camera when you feel no one cares about your photography. It could be that you wanted to capture nature on film. Or register your children's birth for posterity. Perhaps having a tangible record of the world around you (yes, I still print pictures, leave me be). It doesn't matter what anyone else thinks of your photography. The only thing that matters is what your photos mean to you. If they produce an emotional response in other people, that's amazing. However, the pursuit of external validation should not be the focus of your journey. I'm not telling you never to show your work around - that'd be completely counterproductive. Rather, keep in mind the reason you've picked up a camera in the first place—that instinctive feeling with hidden yet noble intentions.
I happen to think that applies to coding too. I'm not here to impose judgemental thoughts on those who joined tech because of the $$$. Everyone has a right to pursue happiness, and if working in tech opens that door for you, I'm all supportive! At this moment, nonetheless, I have the idealists in mind. Those familiar with the excitement you feel in the belly when a new project idea arises. Triggering that sensation is a mere thought away. One idea here, another there, and suddenly a thousand never-finished projects are born. Some say they have butterflies in the stomach, but there's no point in eating them. They're so pretty.
I remember feeling this high intensity when I was around 13-14. I recall being so excited at the thought of typing weird words (def? void? do while?) into the computer, which turned into something I could see come to life. At that point, I had never written a single line of code (apart from primary HTML/CSS/JS on the late Geocities). That feeling by itself was decisive in one of the most important decisions I've ever taken. When choosing an undergrad major, I hit a major crossroads in life. My gut said Computer Engineering while everything else said International Relations. That gut instinct was the judge who pressed the button.
Fast forward a few years. I now hold a bachelor's degree in a technical subject. I'm also pursuing a master's degree in Computer Science. By September 2022, it'll be three years since I started the journey as a full-time developer. At this point, I've seen and been through technical challenges which I did not think I could tackle. The thought of not being good enough has crossed my mind and even paralyzed me a few times.
Having been through this cycle several times, I started noticing a pattern. I'm generally able to solve the problem and deliver the code, but only after the anxiety peak has passed. I discovered that one of the best tools I possess is to remind myself of my feelings as a teenager. Over time, I noticed it was still there, even when I could not calm myself down enough to hear it. As I listened to it with more attention, I learned something. It had not vanished - but instead transformed into something else. What was once an explosive, mind-shattering sensation of "I RULE THE WORLD!" has morphed into something else. I could describe it like this: "Even though I'm facing a hard challenge now, I know why I'm doing this and where it'll lead me." It's not that explosive excitement anymore, for sure. But thinking this way helps me clear my mind when complex problems arise. That goes for more than coding, of course.
I don't know if this transformation is definitive. Sometimes I still have a minor panic attack when unpredicted things happen. I'm curious about how this will evolve in the future. For now, I'll make sure always to keep my camera around - and interesting technical challenges coming :)