Matt Gemmell

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One hundred days

writing 3 min read

At the beginning of this year, I abandoned my career as a software developer to become a writer. I’ve now had over a hundred days of writing full-time, and I’d like to talk about the transition and how I’m feeling about it three months down the line.

I’ve had three career transition points in my life, each one nerve-wracking at the time. I was recruited from my first year at university to work for Adobe, and progressed through the product management side of things. It was a wonderful time. I was always troubled, though, that I’d never finished (or indeed barely begun) my Computing Science degree. So I decided to make the difficult decision: quit, and go back to university.

It was an excellent choice. I got my degree, met my best friends there (including my wife), and found something I loved to do.

I’d been working as a web developer in agencies for a few years after graduation when I decided it was time to work for myself. I agonised over the decision for months, then decided to go ahead. I wrote about it at the time, and as I re-read that piece now I can still feel the nervousness.

It was another excellent choice. I got to work on many apps and projects that I’m still proud of today. I worked with Apple for quite a while. I wrote and released a respectable body of source code to the community over the years, which found its way into hundreds and hundreds of apps. I took the stage at developer conferences in many different countries, talking about everything from API design to user experience to accessibility. I even attained a modicum of notoriety.

Those were easily the best years of my life so far, and I remain enormously interested in tech, mobile devices and software. I’ve met thousands of people, and found a great many colleagues, friends, and kindred spirits. So, no regrets.

During 2013, though, a voice of dissatisfaction became more insistent. It was an old voice, recognisable after just a moment, and long-missed. It pointed out that I was happiest not when writing code, but rather words.

Cue more months of swithering1. And then, for a third time, I made the jump.

Every day now (and I do mean every day), I walk into my home office, set down my coffee cup, and open the blinds to the park. I sit down, and… I write. That’s all.

It’s such a freeing thing. There hasn’t been a single day when I’ve regretted my decision. Quite the contrary.

I’ll be 35 this year. I ask myself if I’ve let more valuable years slip by, but I have to believe that I wasn’t ready to do this work until now. It’s not just about having the sharpest possible mind; it’s also about just experiencing life, and finding a voice. For me, this is the right time. I could say that about my previous big changes too.

I’m loving the focus, and the peace, and the banishment of that nagging doubt about whether I was doing the right thing. I believe I’ve found what I’m meant to be doing. In the face of that conviction, it’s tough to worry too much about the drop in income, and the uncertainty. I’m actually more at peace than I’ve been in a while.

I haven’t launched Xcode in 2014. I still have ideas for apps, but I no longer feel the compulsion to implement them. My mind follows the idea for a few moments, creating an architecture and an interface, but I catch myself quickly enough. I still can do those things, but I’ve not been moved to. Then I smile, and think of my development work fondly, but with no sense of loss.

Maybe you’re even considering a change in your life too - I think that most of us probably are. Your circumstances are your own, but I can draw on my experience. I know what it’s like to be scared. It’s a very familiar feeling, and a companion for much of my life.

I also know what it’s like to push past that fear and take the chance (with the support of an understanding partner, of course). Three times so far, and no regrets.

It won’t always work out, but you’d be surprised how often your gut is right.

You can help with my new career: this blog is supported by readers like you.

  1. Hesitation and indecision; a Scottish word.