Sunday, July 9, 2006

Creativity as Driving Force

Take a minute to remember the last project you completed alone. Can you remember the satisfaction of seeing the pieces fall into place to build a greater whole, to put the finishing touches and perhaps launch it publicly? This satisfaction, in its best moments, defines one of greatest feelings in life. It is the driving force for artists, hackers, bloggers, journalists, and anyone who lets their creativity be a central part of their day-to-day activities.

Creativity can be manifested in different ways for different people. The force of it is just as powerful though, no matter if it is being used to cook, do gardening, writing, drawing, composing music, or anything else. I am a software developer, and my choice of profession has a lot to do with getting an outlet for my desire to be creative. It is my firm belief that people gain happiness and satisfaction from nurturing and giving in to their creative impulses.

Society brings with it social pressures and expectations as well as stereotypes we are expected to fit into. These are stifling our creativity, and it is up to each and every one of us to find our own way. To find our own way is not an easy thing and we must constantly fight this war, in order not to fall back into stereotypical behavior and dissatisfaction. It is by leveraging our creativity that we can force this issue to our advantage. The war against stereotypical behavior must be fought on many fronts: professionally, as a family, in your relations with close ones, and of course in your dealings with yourself.

A personal example: Last year I decided that I wanted to start my own software development business. This decision stemmed from the fact that I had always had creative positions in my professional life until I emigrated from Sweden to Israel. Here in my new country I started to work in a position where my creative juices weren’t flowing like I was used to. I was more and more missing the development work I always had been doing in the corporate world. I decided that the best way for me to express my creativity by building software applications on my own time.

It is the first time I am creating a large software project on my own, including marketing and selling it. It is nothing short of amazing. Everyday I am learning something new and the fact that I am my own boss means that I can focus my creativity in the direction where I am feeling most productive that day. One day it means writing articles or blog entries, another day it means coding or web site building.

Going it alone in the software business is of course not a new phenomenon (small shareware shops were heard of decades ago), but there is a rather recent term for it: micro-ISV (Independent Software Vendor). It connotes to one or a few individuals who are building and selling software products. The term was coined by Eric Sink in an MSDN Magazine article, and it stuck in the industry. Today, there are books, active forums, podcasts and web sites dedicated to help out the budding or already blossoming micro-ISV entrepreneur. These micro-ISV and shareware people who are going it alone have all made a proactive choice about using their creativity daily.

I think there is a reason we are seeing a entrepreneurial boom in the software industry today. The growth and acceptance of e-commerce along with more powerful and affordable Rapid Application Development tools (Visual Studio Express comes to mind), makes it much easier for the single software developer to make a living today. It’s a beautiful world where creativity can pay the bills!

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