In all the time I’ve used computers I’ve always been making, building and tinkering with stuff. Way back with an Acorn Electron and later a BBC Micro I’d be coding stuff, you know, just for fun. At university I’d be doing my coursework and then all sorts of other, often art based computer projects. At the agency before Flickr I’d be getting up at 5am to work on personal project before grabbing the train to work. While in San Francisco evenings (once the kids were in bed) would be either playing games, going out or hacking around with some new thing. At the Guardian it was the same, work during the day and then hack around with stuff, often on the Guardian API, for fun in the evening and you know, sometimes not.
And then, suddenly it stopped. Opening up the laptop in the evening to throw together two lines of code became too much. The words for a blog post would go racing through my head all day, but the effort needed to sit down that night to write them out was mentally exhausting. This wasn’t just an irritation, it was down right infuriating, I could see myself missing out on interesting things.
I decided not to blog this post when I came across it a few weeks ago out of a general desire to start keeping things a bit more upbeat around here, but I’ve found myself thinking about it and mentioning it to people a lot since then so I think it’s worth entering into my permanent record (aka Tumblr).
I relate pretty powerfully to the phenomenon Dan Catt’s is describing here—in fact, I’ve been there myself a number of times over the years as a result of demoralizing work situations. Like Catt, though, I think the onset has always been so gradual that I’ve been surprisingly slow in each case to recognize my puzzling loss of creative mojo and general excitement about life as a symptom job-related depression, not an inescapable sign of my personal decline. Catt’s observation that social web output is a reliable way of gauging this phenomenon also squares very much with my experience—if you graphed my Twitter activity over time, you could probably pinpoint the moments where I left jobs.