Living with Uncertainty

I dreamt of some code changes I wanted to finish before a meeting today, where I needed to present the current state of a project I’m woefully behind on. I stayed up late last night getting the project past a milestone, and I took some time to polish it this morning. Then, in the meeting, it didn’t go well.

The code is cleaner and easier to read. It’s just not quite there yet.

I worked on it when I could today, but my new schedule and responsibilities keep me from coding most days. It’s good and it’s bad. Good, because this is the natural evolution of my career. I can’t remain a programmer forever, because there isn’t enough time in the day for me to stay up-to-date on all the changes. I can help other people by bringing with me all the things I’ve already learned, but year after year I’m just going to fall further and further behind the technology until we reach a point where I don’t bring a lot of value to the table.

So I’m a team leader, now, with more non-technical responsibilities. It’s an exciting time! But it’s also a time where I feel uncertain a lot. As a programmer, you can look at the product you’ve created and know objectively if you’ve done a good job. Does it compile? Does it run? Does it satisfy all of the requirements? You’ve done a good job.

My new responsibilities aren’t quite so cut and dry. Am I providing enough help to my team? Am I shielding them from stuff so that they can focus on important tasks? Am I acting as a good bridge when I’m called upon to convey the needs of my team to other people? Who knows?

My boss has told me I’m doing a good job, so I’m trusting him on that. There’s still a lot of uncertainty, but I guess that’s part of the job.

Maybe when I get better at handling the uncertainty in my day job, I’ll be better equipped to handle it in my writing career.

The parallels are obvious. I can know with some degree of certainty if I wrote the story well. However, I can’t know if it’s going to sell, and most of the time, I won’t know if I’ve done a good job selling it to an agent or publisher. Maybe I did a terrible job, and that’s why they’re not picking it up. Or maybe I did a fantastic job, but the work isn’t right for their slate, or one of a thousand other factors are at play making it impossible for them to pick up my story. Again, who knows?

This is the Uncertainty Phase of my life. I have to keep working and trying to move forward, even if there’s fog on all sides and I don’t know if I’m turned around and going the wrong way. I have to trust that I started off the write direction, and try not to veer one way or the other, while hoping that there isn’t some chasm right in front of me.