why start a coding side project?

For the past nine months, I have spent almost all of my free time working on a coding side project. This is surprisingly common behavior for software developers. Some of us spend the entire work week coding for a company, then choose to continue coding as a hobby in our mornings, evenings, and weekends. I plan my work around my two-and-a-half-year-old daughter’s sleep schedule.

At the beginning of the project, I often imagined a voice asking nervous “why” questions. Why build a text editor when other ones already exist? Why work on something that you will never get paid for? What if the long-term maintenance of the project eventually leads to burnout? Aren’t there more important problems you could be working on?

Then, I started watching Adam Savage building stuff.

For several years, but especially since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Adam Savage has been live-streaming from his workshop in San Francisco. I’ve watched him build cabinets, doors, movie prop replicas, clothing, and tools. He seems to enjoy both the process of learning and applying new skills, as well as the joy of creating something that exactly fits his workflow and aesthetic.

So I would imagine asking Adam Savage the “why” questions that were bothering me. And the questions seemed so ridiculous that I had to laugh. Would Adam Savage stop building that lighsaber replica because other people have done it before, and he could just buy one online instead? Does he worry that spending hours building a miniature chop saw won’t meaningfully advance his career?

I’m building my side project simply because I want it to exist. I want to understand everything about how it works, down to the last detail. And someday I hope to share it with people that will get why it’s awesome.

Isn’t that enough?