Developer by Day, Novelist by Night
I’ve always liked writing, ever since I was a kid. I always created these expansive worlds in my head and one of the ambitions in my life, that I still have to this day, is to create things that other people can enjoy. Naturally, writing would fulfill this role. However, I grew up in South-East Asia, where machismo is still a big thing, with little room for men to do anything “artsy”. So I opted to code instead. That way, I could still produce things that others could appreciate.
However, secretly, I kept on writing. Most of my writing has been lost to the depths of the internet under the various pseudonyms that I used over the years. But that’s probably for the best ─ I can’t imagine any of the early stuff was any good. Eventually, my writing moved to Reddit where, long story short, one of my stories on the “Writing Prompts” section (where people post short ideas, and other people respond with stories inspired by the idea) picked up an audience. The rush of endorphins from other people enjoying something I had created was incredible, so I continued writing updates to the story until, 6 months later, I had finished the story.
The book was ready, but now came the hard part: publishing it. Like most regular humans, I didn’t know the intricate process of book publishing, how to edit a piece of text or how to even structure a book cover. How does the barcode on a book cover work? How does one get an ISBN? What goes on the first page of a book? I remember the meticulous hell that was positioning the text that would go on the spine of the book, only to have to redo it all when the page count changed. It took me another 6 months of effort to actually get a physical copy into my hands.
However, you can take the tiger out of the jungle, but you can’t take the jungle out of the tiger. I was still embarrassed about my writing. Something that many people have since told me is an achievement is, to me, still something I tend to hide (ironic that I am writing an article about it).
Coupled with the fact that I am a software developer by trade, it came as a huge shock to most people when I told them I’d (self-)published a book. Software development still has a very ‘nerdy’ reputation and maintains this image of being very analytical and logical. While writing, especially fiction, is romanticised as being this creative outlet, where there are no rules and the sky is the limit. And to some extent, they are both grounded in truth. Coding is very regimented and structured, and writing does require a lot of creativity. However, they are more similar than you would imagine.
It never ceases to amaze me whenever I think about how billions upon billions of 1’s and 0’s can culminate into massive open world games, landing rovers on the moon, or collecting the sum total of human knowledge and displaying it on a website. Whenever you go to a website, the 1s and 0s coming out of your computer embark on a journey across continents, under oceans, through deep-sea cables, and return on the same path, all in under a second. It’s beautiful in its own way, imagining the vast networks that make all that possible.
Likewise, while writing my book, I probably had it planned out better than most of the features I have written on trivago (although that may speak more to my competencies as a developer more than anything else). I planned out story arcs, wrote back stories for my characters to keep their personalities consistent, and probably had the same amount of tabs open for grammar and spell checking as I would when I code.
Many of the skills I have been developing for my career play into my skills as a writer, and vice versa. Immersing my mind into my story isn’t that different from immersing myself into understanding all the branching lines of code. Googling to find out what exact programming function I need is the same process for searching up obscure grammar rules.
It turns out that I don’t need to be so shy about my writing. I don’t need to be embarrassed to call myself an author. Because, as it turns out, being an author isn’t that different from being a developer.