Changes: Fading Out of the Software Business

I’ve been an idiot.

I’ve moved this blog to a new domain, blog.JTimothyKing.com. (That’s not how I’ve been an idiot.) And I’m changing the focus, because the focus of my life has been changing. The fact that it has been changing for the past 2 years but I haven’t acted on it– That’s how I’ve been an idiot.

Actually, I did act on it… kinda. But I didn’t really have a vision for where I wanted to go. Or more accurately, I didn’t truly believe my vision was possible. And so I let my efforts get confused. On the one hand, I was doing what I believed I should be doing to get ahead. On the other hand, I was doing what I really enjoyed. And while I truly believed the two could be integrated, I never acted to integrate them. Because I didn’t truly believe what I wanted was possible… I’m babbling. Let me clarify.

The story begins in November of 2005, almost 2 years ago. That’s when I started a storytelling blog, called Be the Story, to begin exploring that shift. Here’s how I described it in a private e-mail to a group of my friends:

About this time in a software developer’s career, he must decide whether to keep developing software, go into management, or do something else. Early in November, this really hit me. I felt that if I remained a staff software engineer, my life would stagnate. Most of what we do in this industry isn’t engineering, anyhow, and that grates on me…

At the time, I was reading The Leadership Challenge by James Kouzes and Barry Posner. It inspired me. I made a list of the things I’m passionate about, what I believe in. I also listed the kinds of things I’d been good at in the past. Then I brainstormed about possible industries I might want to work in and the roles I might want to have.

That exercise definitely pointed me toward a more creative career than software development has become. So I started bethestory.com, a blog and podcast celebrating stories and those who tell them. The art of story is the thin strip of land on which a writer meets his audience…

I’m not quite sure where I’m going to end up. I may become a writing consultant or coach or maybe a story-game developer. One of the items on my brainstorming list was creative director in video games, but I thought that was too silly. (Whoever heard of a “creative director”?)… Then I played Psychonauts and saw Tim Schafer, the genius behind the game, at the top of the credit sheet listed as “creative director.” Tim Schafer is my hero.

Okay, here’s the thing…

I didn’t try any of those. There were other things high on my list that I would love to do, too. For example, I would love to be a novelist. Except that there’s no money in writing novels, unless you’re Stephen King. So why not change my name to “Stephen”? Seriously. Not literally, of course. But why not try writing fiction, selling it, making some money, and enjoying it? It wasn’t until recently that I started seriously writing online fiction, a serial drama called The Conscience of Abe’s Turn, and one of the characters is a software developer. (Of all the characters, she’s the one who has the most in common with me personally.) But all the characters have come alive to me. That’s probably because they’re inspired by the storytelling style of Gilmore Girls, whose fans have argued interminably and passionately about its characters. For me, personally, this is an incredibly enjoyable and exciting project.

All told, I’ve spent a lot of time and effort on things that supposedly can’t make me any money. And because they supposedly can’t make me money, I haven’t constructed a vision around them. Yet, these projects are the most enjoyable part of what I do with my time. The thing is, I have never actually tried to make money doing what I enjoy. In the email I quoted above, I mentioned being a writing consultant. What I specifically had in mind was to consult with writers on their stories. I concluded, however, that there would be no money in it. But would you believe that I never even offered my services as a paid story consultant? Never. Never even constructed an offer. Much less tried to persuade someone to hire me.

Yet many have applauded the stories I myself have written. A filmmaker friend of mine was so excited by what he read that he decided we had to work on a project together. Sure, why not? I reviewed his latest script, we got on the phone, and within a couple of hours, he was seeing a whole new exciting vision for his film. There were several Aha! moments in that discussion. And he actually took my advice. My point is, I certainly have something to offer fiction writers as a story consultant. How do I know they wouldn’t pay me, unless I try to offer it to them?

Meanwhile, I’ve been maintaining the fiction that this blog, about my life, is supposedly a software-development or technology blog. How can that be when my life isn’t about technology? When my life hasn’t been about technology for the past 23 months at least? I’ve maintained the fiction that I can write about technology and entrepreneurship, because I’m still a damn good software developer, and because I’ve been doing web development and marketing. Yeah, that involves a lot of writing. And there is money in it. And it’s fun, too. But…

I’m like one of my fictional characters.

A good fictional character might say one thing, but then he thinks and feels and does something else. That’s a very powerful way to describe a fictional character. Because character is what’s inside. It’s what you do when no one’s looking, as Holly Lisle puts it. And when a character says one thing but does another, that tells you that he really doesn’t believe what he himself says. That tells you he’s a hypocrite. And moreover, that there’s a conflict inside him. Good writers do that with their characters all the time. I do it with myself.

No matter how much I’ve held on to being part software guy, most of what I’ve done of late has been related to writing. Truthfully, I’m no longer a software developer. There, I said it. (The first step, as they say, is admitting you have a problem.) I’m a writer. I love to write. So why not just bring my efforts in line with what I really want? Why not construct an outwardly coherent vision for my life? Rather than saying one thing and doing another?

To that end, here’s what I’m doing:

  1. I’ve moved this blog to blog.JTimothyKing.com. Any links to JTSE.com/blog will be redirected to the new location, so no fears.
  2. In these pages, I’m going to talk more about what I’ve been doing as a writer, not just as a software guy. And I’ll post some of my fiction from time to time as well. That should result in more posts.
  3. I plan to re-theme BeTheStory.com, and make it a companion blog. That should result in more posts there.
  4. I’m actually going to sell my fiction. Not just one book. But book after book after book. And I’m starting with Abe’s Turn. (Updated.)
  5. I’m going to offer a series of writing resources and storytelling kits, one of which I’ve already mostly finished. (Why did I let it stall? It was fun and exciting to work on, and it’s valuable to writers.)
  6. I’m also going to offer website design services to writers and filmmakers, via my Lucrative Web Design site. (I’ll probably end up moving to a better domain for that, though.)

I don’t know what I’m going to do with JTSE.com or with regard to software development. But I’m clearly fading out of the business, whether I want to or not. I use software development for cash, as much as I can find time to earn, but at rates that sometimes don’t seem worth the effort. Software development for me is a commodity. Yes, I know, there are ways to make software development a specialty, by giving seminars, consulting on processes and technologies, and so forth. But none of that really excites me anymore. I might as well admit it. To do otherwise would be to continue to be an idiot.

-TimK

Did you enjoy this post? Why not leave a comment below and continue the conversation, or subscribe to my feed and get articles like this delivered automatically to your feed reader.

Comments

Congratulations with finding your *actable* passion is and with actually acting on it! :)

I am a reader of your blog for a year or so and always enjoyed your writing. I hope you can bring it to even higher heights. I also do hope that you’ll have a bit of time to devote to merging SW development and writing. There is so much in SW dev that is actually about people, their relationship, common sense and life.

And by the way, where is your price list?
To illustrate that you really have to start offering your services, I can say that my second reaction to your post (after the congratulations) was to consider hiring you exactly for writing stories on SW development and entrepreneurship. The third thought was though about they I probably cannot afford you to pay as much as you deserve, but without the price list it is just a guess ;)

Hi, Artem. Thanks for the kind words. I don’t have a price list, and I don’t even know how much I would charge. So, yeah, you make a good point. :)

-TimK

The Nines Script Online…

If you didn’t get to see The Nines, the independent film starring Melissa McCarthy, and if you want to see what it’s about…

[...] scope until they were projects too large for me to fit into my schedule. Of course, having recently reprioritized slightly, it’s much easier to find time to write. So maybe I’ll be able to complete some of [...]

[...] slightly since this video was made.) And I sympathize completely. After all, one of the reasons I’m getting out of software development is that software developers get no [...]

[...] You’ve probably noticed I’m posting much more on this blog of late. That’s because I’m actually writing again… seriously writing. That is, I’m pursuing it professionally. That’s why BeTheStory.com has a new graphical theme, because I’ve made this site part of a larger group of sites. I talked about this at my personal blog, “Changes: Fading Out of the Software Business”. [...]

[...] You’ve probably noticed I’m posting much more on this blog of late. That’s because I’m actually writing again… seriously writing. That is, I’m pursuing it professionally. That’s why BeTheStory.com has a new graphical theme, because I’ve made that site and this parts of a larger group of sites. I talked about this earlier, “Changes: Fading Out of the Software Business.” [...]

Congratulations! I hope one day I’ll discover my passion and have the courage to follow it as you are doing. I wish you the best of luck in all your endeavors.

Hey I know this is off topic but I was wondering if you knew of any widgets I could add to my blog that automatically
tweet my newest twitter updates. I’ve been looking for a plug-in like this for quite some time and was hoping maybe you would have some experience with something like this.
Please let me know if you run into anything.
I truly enjoy reading your blog and I look forward to your new updates.

Good day I am so delighted I found your web site, I really found you
by error, while I was looking on Askjeeve for something else,
Nonetheless I am here now and would just like to say cheers for a tremendous post and a all
round entertaining blog (I also love the theme/design), I don’t have time
to browse it all at the minute but I have saved it and also added in your RSS feeds,
so when I have time I will be back to read a lot more, Please do keep
up the fantastic job.

Leave a comment

(required)

(required)