Midnight Pub

keep the pours flowing

~wbarlow

howdy, pubgoers. i'm new around these parts. barkeep, please pour me a superfuzz pale ale.

most days, my mind is like the beer flowing from that tap to that glass: carbonated, cloudy. each thought bubble has a lifespan that would make a mayfly stop and smell the roses.

i've been thinking a lot lately about the state of flow. as in, programmer flow. that mental zone insulated from the world around you, when the bevels of your monitors melt away and you freely surf a shifting landscape of data structures stretching to the horizon.

for me, true flow is rare. maybe once or twice per year. when it strikes, it is all-consuming and lasts for days or weeks.

when i'm entering flow, it's like the entire system's implementation has snapped into focus from the ether, burned onto my wrinkled graymatter with blessed light. from that moment on i am a keyboard slave to the image in my mind, beam-racing to record each layer of its visage before the gifted knowledge fades down into the foggy folds of my frontal lobe.

in the midst of a deep flowstate, i feel a euphoric mania. i have delusions that i am a byteslinger unmatched, that nobody but me could ever conceive such a clear view of this perfect system in my mind. i truly lose grounding in my self-estimation. my ego takes hold of me like an infection. nothing shall interrupt my ordained task.

whenever i've finally finished etching the stone tablets, the post-flow snapback begins. this typically means a few days of feeling like a husk, suddenly reminded of my own physicality and acutely aware that on a societal scale my protocol parser implementation is ultimately pretty unimportant. every human interaction, especially eye contact, feels like daylight on a hangover.

eventually i swing back into balance and i look back at what i've made. i'm no longer a god striding among fields of hand-crafted abstractions... but most of the time i decide that the fruits of my labor are actually pretty decent.

so i do some editing, wrap it up for code review, and put together a demo and architecture slide deck. my teammates invariably find a few improvements, because they're all talented and experienced engineers as well. they usually have nice things to say about the cogency of my design and documentation.

looking back at this post... my experience with flow does not seem very healthy. but at the same time, i value my flowstates; they are so rare. i spend so much of my time chasing each butterfly that flits past my mind's eye -- when i manage by chance to catch a dragon by the tail, i'm not going to let go.


eaplmx

Well, I've thinking something similar in my last vacations. And I have to share that I feel alike.

I like programming as a hobbie, but doing it for 8 hours daily, 5 days a week is overwhelming for me. I stop enjoying when I have to do it continously.

What has worked better for me is changing between something requiring focus for 1-2 hours, and then moving to calls or something else where I can be easily distracted. Now I'm more like a Production manager helping Jr. Programmers with specific stuff. I think I've found my place, but also I'm wondering sometimes.

And also I have those rushes of programming energy for work or any personal project for 2-3 days and it slowly fades away until I'm in a normal state. I think is our brain trying to escape from boredom, but as you say, after that rush you feel the hangover. For example I've avoided any Game Jams or Hackatons, as I feel extremely bad for same reasons. After working for a few days from Monday to Sunday for reasons, now I have to rest at least 1 full day to feel productive again.

Well, I don't want to complain, only be aware of how I'm currently feeling, and I think it's great to know how other people feel 'the flow'

Best vibes!

reply

wbarlow

hello eaplmx! good to meet you. i overheard you talking about gemini over ham radio as i walked in, and i think that's super cool! and i hear you're bringing some spanish language content to the pub -- that's super cool too!

thank you for commenting. it's good to know someone else has felt this way. i actually do write code full time; most of it is maintenance and i have some techniques for keeping enough focus to stay productive, but that isn't 'flow' for me. when flow strikes, i end up doing high-level re-architecture work.

i'll be doing ludum dare this weekend so i've been giving daily offerings to the trickster gods of attention deficit. i hope it works.

reply

eaplmx

Hey! Thank you for your kind words...

Happens the same to me when the flow strikes 😁 And don't get me started with looking to the next shiny thing... Happens to me all the time with my hobbies and sometimes with my work. Being creative makes it difficult for me to focus on the same thing in the long run.

I've been researching a lot about motivation (for my team) and purpose (for myself, mainly), and I think it's always an interesting subject between managing our emotional brain, our rational one, and our environment. It's fun at least to me trying to make it work, so here we are, and maybe we will be for many years, let's see!

Best luck with Ludum dare!

reply