We Are All Artists

I've written on this topic before, but as Amanda Palmer touched the topic in her book I felt it was a good idea to write about it again, this time on my blog. Especially since the angle is slightly different.

In my contribution to Stuart Herbert's book I talk about the need to be proud of your work with the angle of ensuring a certain quality. However, there is also the other way of looking at it. I've talked to a lot of people who at some point in their career (often early on in their career) had a hard time being proud of their work because their work can not be seen. Designers and frontend developers can very easily show their work. "Hey, look at this cool site I've designed!" For backend developers, this is very hard. "Look at this site, we've worked hard for 3 months building it!" "It's just a webshop, so what?"

In her book, Amanda Palmer speaks about a phonecall she had with her mother who had been a computer programmer for 40 years. Amanda Palmer, being a pretty clear and proven artist, at some point gets confronted by her mother with something she said when she was 13:


Not long after, however, her mother says exactly the thing I've wanted to say to many of the developers I mentioned above that didn't know how to take pride from their work:

You know, Amanda, it always bothered me. You can't see my art, but... I'm one of the best artists I know. It's just... nobody could ever see the beautiful things I made. Because you couldn't hang them in a gallery.

This is the message I've tried to get across to many developers in the past years. Sure, you can't show non-programmers your work of art. Even if people can appreciate the amount of effort that goes into building software, many a mother, brother, nephew or neighbour would not be able to understand the difference between your building a high-end high-performance architecture and someone that "just makes it work". But that doesn't mean you stop being an artist. YOU ARE AN ARTIST. You need to solve your problems, implement your features, you need to be creative. Being a software programmer is creative, just as being a musician is creative. It's just a different problem you're solving.

So please, PLEASE be proud of what you do. We are all artists.

Update: Bart de Boer pointed me to a 1995 interview with Steve Jobs in which he mentioned the exact same thing. If even Steve says so, do you believe it now? ;)