Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Awesome Book: One Person/Multiple Careers

I'm not Leonardo da Vinci, but I have a lot of interests, and I'm very good at some of them. A lot of programmers who read my blog have e-mailed me to ask how it is I can be a programmer and study acting, or be a programmer and create motion graphics, or be a programmer and create hand-drawn animation, or realistic drawings, or unrealistic drawings, or sci-fi screenplays, etc., etc., etc. How do I keep up on Ruby on Rails and military robotics? The short answer is I like to keep busy. The long answer is another post (which has been in draft mode for about a month).

However, if you want the "long story short" version, if you just want to know how to do this same sort of thing, this kickass book is absolutely the book you want.

I'm drawn to computer programming because it involves solving puzzles and the beautiful abstract understanding of complex things. It's what I spend a lot of my free time reading about. But after a while that work can feel arid, and I get really excited to get back to the theater where I work with people, telling stories, bouncing things around. But rehearsals are all vagueness and uncertainty, with all of these egos. And after a while of that, it becomes compelling to go back to a place where things are clean and simple. With the programming, even though I have collaborators and clients, in the end there's a sense that's just mine. There's something really nice about just solving a problem in my head that doesn't depend on if the paint color works, everyone remembers their lines, and the audiences like it. Basically, if I weren't doing both things, I'd get bored and antsy.
-Dan Milstein, computer programmer/theater director

Literally the first paragraph of the first chapter.

And a few pages in:

"There's a certain culture in programming where managers think they are doing a good job if everyone is working overtime...After being a programmer for ten years I've learned that is sort of a big lie. The most productive team is the one that closes down at five every day and has a clear head in the morning to see their way through problems. It's more like an art form than building a house. If you have a problem with a novel or a play, the solution isn't necessarily to write more pages. Often what you're doing when you're working on a novel or a play is looking for that burst of insight. And you won't get those unless you are fresh and unstressed."

I'm only about 50 pages in, but the book is filled with the stories of fascinating people doing interesting things with their lives, and practical insights from their experience, patterns among them all, which will make it easier and quicker for you to do the same thing, if you choose to.

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