Making art means making a mess. It means tidying up, organising, and discovering something in doing it. There are unexpected emotions. There are doubts and dead ends. There are technical problems. Many books are written about how people make art (or do anything creatively). Keeping moving, paying attention to what’s happening, making decisions, navigating squalls and storms, staying afloat — these are all part of it.

And it’s a lonely business if you’re not in a collective or a group. It’s lonely if you’re in one. You need to be able to handle ambiguity, incompleteness, uncertainty and abstractions. What’s inside wants to come out. Nature contains chaos. Mess can feel unsettling.

In writing software, developers prize efficiency, clarity and elegance, but people are organic — messy. Software programs talk to each other online twenty-four hours a day, all built by people, and at sufficient complexity software begins to look like an organism. This is part of the idea of artificial intelligence we hold in culture. At what point does the software we’ve written begin to act like the ghosts we’ve programmed into it?

Writing software is addictive. The problem-solving is addictive, user interfaces are addictive, the feedback loop of trying something, seeing it fail, trying something else, seeing it succeed, is addictive. If you want to lose eight hours in a flow state, programming is a great way to do it. It’s like an endless crossword or sudoku.

Many programmers like it that way and they’re not interested in the benefits (or negative effects) of the code they’re writing. They want it to be elegant, efficient, bug-free and done (and on to the next problem). As I get older, I’m finding that harder to tolerate in the people around me.

Part of me wants to make art and part of me wants to write software.

Editing prose engages the same part of my brain that fixes bugs in software. If I have an eight thousand word story, I can quickly make that a tight, elegant, efficient, bug-free, four thousand word story.

But, ironically given all the psychoanalytic psychotherapy I had, I find writing that eight thousand word story incredibly hard. Many people are the other way around, which makes me wonder what I’m doing wrong. I understand the value of my stream of consciousness thoughts, my dreams, and how my intuition can make connections. I know this. I should be programmed (!) for making things up by now without all this internal drama.

I’m impatient. It’s a deep-seated trait. It’s always in the background. I’ve been meditating every morning for six weeks now. Ten minutes with the teachers on Apple Fitness+. I wonder if that is why I’m starting to notice how impatient I feel. I’ve written many (many) times about slowing down.

Sometimes I think it’s because I’m getting older, but I was as impatient in my twenties. There’s always been this feeling that I’m going to miss out if I don’t move quickly. The gift is fleeting and then it’s gone.

That’s life. And that’s what it was like in my family growing up.

(Ah, we’re here again. Must it always be about my mother?)