The Coder, Part 2
Back during my salad days at Apple, working with the QuickTime and OS engineering teams, I built a little music and video playlist app, which I later documented for Apple developers. I mention this effort now because I’m still using this app, almost on a daily basis, at work while I continue to write reams of technical documentation. The app continues to have legs, as they say in Hollywood when a movie is still box office after three or four weeks. Well, this app has survived for almost a dozen years, and does its job without complaint, or the production of errors. That’s the thing about writing and compiling code: an app either works or it doesn’t. There’s no in-between, like there is with composing fiction. And if it doesn’t, you’ve got to lot of error checking to do, hours and hours of stepping through each line of code, figuring how best to make code patches and fixes, which can consume almost ninety percent of your development time, and drive you a bit bonkers.
Right now, I’m listening, as I write, to one of the all-time jazz compositions by Herbie Hancock: Cantaloupe Island, with Freddie Hubbard on trumpet, Ron Carter on bass, and Tony Williams on drums. It’s playing on the app I wrote at Apple, with a curated list of music and videos visible in the left panel. No big deal. I’m calling it my cool.qtplaylist. I could listen to this composition forever, like Chick Corea’s Spain, or Horace Silver’s Song for My Father. Dave Brubeck’s Take Five also falls into that category. In fact, at Apple, I remember working with a writer (whom I’d originally hired as a contractor) named Otto Schlosser, an arts and theater major with commanding presence and character, who would literally play Brubeck’s Take Five continuously for the duration of his workday, perhaps as a welcome source of inspiration. He didn’t last forever at Apple, though he ended up working for many other tech companies and bringing his passion for language and drama to those places.
At any rate, I encourage all writers to learn the art of programming (there are dozens of great courses out there, from Stanford and Berkeley, as well as the websites of Google and Apple). You learn to build things, which is the mantra that every engineer lives by, you learn the power of concentration, how to sustain your focus for unbelievable periods of time (while you debug your programs)––in short, you learn discipline. And that will serve you well in your writing of fiction and non-fiction, as you edit and revise your work, ensuring that it’s at a level you can live with and be proud of, right?