Changes: Fading Out of the Software Business

I’ve been an idiot.

I’ve moved this blog to a new domain, (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, 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 Any links to 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, 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 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.