I dropped out of Junior College after three semesters in 1999. My software development education has consisted of exactly two classes — Intro to Java and Intro to C++ — but I’ve been a professional software developer for about 8 years now. Ten years ago, I bought books, annoyed smart people with questions and generally fumbled my way into a passable set of programming skills. Truth be told, I’ve never felt much like a “real” programmer.
During the first half of last year, I wrote about 20,000 words about a piece of software that I really love. A good friend compiled these words into an attractive document and I offered it to strangers in exchange for money. It’s been a very successful venture, but I’ve never felt like a real author despite the fact that I’ve sold more copies of my ebook than many “real” (read: published) authors have of theirs (I’m told).
Whenever I bring up any of these whiny, white-guy observations in the company of friends, they remind me that the fact that I’ve been paid money for either of these two activities legitimizes them as “real” professions. I find this point somewhat difficult to argue, but I still can’t shake the nagging voice in my head that constantly let’s me know that, yep, I’m a big old hack who faked it until he made it and who happened to push his chips into the middle just when his lucky number was about to come up.
It’s not my intention to sound like a big jerk who’s shedding self-interested tears directly onto his big ass plate of success. But, the simple fact is that I have some weird neurosis in my brain that’s trying like hell to maintain this pattern of self-deprecation.
Anyway, I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately and I think I’ve figured it out.
Historically, a great many professions were available only to those who had completed the proper prerequisites. You don’t get to call yourself a medical doctor until you’ve finished medical school, passed a buttload of exams and received a certification from some group of other doctors. Same deal for lawyers. Cops, too. Not every profession worked this way, obviously, but many of them did.
Up until a few years ago, I imagine that for somebody to introduce herself as an author at a cocktail party or whatever, she’d need to have had her work reviewed and found worthy by a group of what I’ll succinctly refer to as “publishers”. It’s different now, though. Any jackass with a computer and an Internet connection can plunk out a few thousand words, compile it crudely into a sharable format, slap a price tag on the front and then, all of a sudden, he’s an author.
Maybe it’s the traditional publisher thing that has me gummed up here. It’d be hard to argue a lady isn’t an author if I can walk into Borders and find a copy of her book on the shelf. But if a guy shook my hand and told me he was an author and that I could buy his ebook at SEOKnob.com, it wouldn’t feel the same, even if he had sold more copies of his thing than Borders lady and had a much more expensive set of veneers.
My problem is that I still (wrongly, I think) feel like until a group of strangers have dubbed you [profession], then you’re just a joker – an underachiever that didn’t have the chops to get there the “old-fashioned” way and did his own goofy thing instead.
I realize that technology has fundamentally changed the way media is produced and delivered. I further realize that it’s possible to get very creative with how one makes a living these days and that folks no longer need “permission” from publishers or literary agents or dev team managers to make something and hang up your shingle. More accurately, my head realizes that.
I feel like I’m rambling here, but does this resonate with anybody? Am I just being an overly-introspective caucasian male about all this?
Photo by daemonsquire