Creativity and Code

I’ve always been a creative person, and more specifically obsessed with creating, playing music, and recording music. For most of my life I’ve prioritized music as both a creative outlet and career, and in conversations about this topic I get the same question all the time “does allowing music to be your job dictate how excited you are about the creative process?”.

A few years ago I began thinking I wanted to learn some new skills, and possibly experiment with something that didn’t fundamentally involve music at all. At the time I’d been working different day jobs (actually pretty well every day job you can imagine) and I thought it might be time to start looking for a more financially secure yet rewarding career. Funnily enough, I actually went to university for computer science and music for this very reason, but found early on in the program that I was drawn to music and social sciences and decided to make a switch. That being said, I ended up pursuing a career in music right after graduating but I always still wished I had continued learning to code.

Fast forward 4 years after graduating university, and working as a touring and recording musician. I have the same feeling that I had going into university — a feeling of wanting to dive into coding. Great, so I have a new and exciting plan, but how can I learn such a time-intensive skill when most of my time is spent loading musical gear into venues in cities and towns across Canada and the U.S., playing all night, and then packing up and driving to the next location to do the exact same thing? It just doesn’t seem feasible….. Then, boom the pandemic hits and all shows, concerts, venues are essentially (and ideally temporarily) out of business along with any artists planning to perform. I don’t really believe in ‘signs’…… but…. this has to be a sign? I took the opportunity to make big strides toward a career in front-end web development, and I could not be happier that I did.

I have friends who have been coding seemingly since they were toddlers, and others who had taken courses after university to make a career change. One of my band members has actually been a software engineer for a long time, and would actually be working on his laptop in our band van while we travelled to different cities. Truthfully I’ve always been a little bit jealous of him, because while I’m staring out the window watching the world go by — he’s working on projects and expressing his excitement with us in the van! He’s explained to me in the past — coding is a very creative experience for him, and that he genuinely enjoys the whole process as an artistic endeavour. In response to this statement my first question has never been “but does allowing coding to be your job dictate how excited you are about the creative process?”.

At the same time I will admit that for most of my life I’ve seen coding as an extremely scientific and mathematical practice requiring a very typical STEM educational background. The more I research though, and the more I’ve spoken to this band member, the more I began to see the value of having an artistic and creative skill-set and how it pairs nicely with coding ability. If you’re able and willing to master the technological skill involved in development and programming — you can treat coding as a creative and artistic practice. Now, while currently taking Juno College’s Web Development Immersive Bootcamp — the link between my own creativity and code has never been more clear.

When not jammed into a small band van travelling across North America, virtually all my time has been spent teaching myself to record music. Over the past 4 years through trial and error I’ve learned how to take a very basic and rough song idea, and turn it into a completely viable and marketable finished song with different types of music recording software. I have essentially been building projects in this software until they are near completion, and then sharing these projects with other musicians, mix engineers and producers so we can collaborate and generate an even better finished product. It’s very much like working on a coding project and passing this torch back and forth with other developers to create the best finished product possible. Ultimately the mindset you need to record music in this way (in the most fundamental sense) is extremely similar to building out a web app from scratch as part of a developer team. You’re building technological projects through trial and error with a creative mindset, and always considering either your listener or typical internet surfer.

Since starting to dive into coding in October 2020 I have become increasingly excited each time I finish a project. I’m now starting to experience a new creative side of myself that I never knew was there. Today I was in a class learning more about CSS transitions, and wow…… there’s a myriad of different creative use cases popping into my head for different apps/websites. Last night I was pair programming over zoom and my partner and I began absolutely loving using SASS to organize and manipulate our code. I have truly fallen completely in love with CSS and all it’s capabilities, especially used in tandem with Javascript to really enhance the user experience in navigating and browsing a website. I still have so much to learn, and I welcome all the challenges I’m about to experience in this Bootcamp program and beyond. It actually astonishes me that I’ve found another creative outlet that excites me as much as music has, and I am beyond excited to make a career out of it. It’s going to be a long journey, but I finally feel that I’ve found a path that best suits my right-brain approach to most things. Creativity and code go hand in hand— don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!