The Importance of Making Junk

I was just sitting here looking over some old code projects of mine, and thinking “Man this stuff is junk. How’d I write this?! And why’d I waste my time on it?” These included a Java library for parsing tweets for data mining (boy that was going to be a great open source project), my first .NET application that was for work and used Microsoft Access as a back-end, and various other half-started works that never really took hold. At first this was rather discouraging, since it reminded me of my genetic pre-disposition to not following through on my projects (a topic for another day for sure).

Then it hit me: it’s only by writing all this crap (and believe me, most of it really is steaming piles of crap), trying out different routes and ideas, and ultimately letting them fall off that I’ve been able to improve my skills as much as I have. Picture the proverbial writer sitting at the typewriter with a pile of crumpled papers next to them, head in hands. But then, one day, something clicks, and out comes a masterpiece.

It’s not important that all we produce is wonderful, glittery, and perfect. No, what’s really crucial is that we keep going and pushing ourselves, especially when it seems like all we churn out is junk. That junk is gold, because it’s what teaches us to do better. As long as we keep learning from our mistakes and bad ideas, then we grow as professionals and human beings. And sooner or later, you might just produce that golden egg.

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