And now we’ll take a short break…

Thursday, August 5, 2010

When I was doing my little food project in 2009 and found myself in the midst of my very surreal Fifteen Minutes of Fame, people said things like, wow, this is amazing…

You could have a website.
You could write a cookbook.
You could be a motivational speaker.
You could be on Oprah.

Sadly, Oprah never called. (Though I did get a call from the Tonight Show with Jay Leno. I think that was the most surprising call I got. It took me a few days to get back to them and apparently they’d moved on by then, I never heard anything back.)

At the time, I wasn’t nearly as excited about the prospect of doing something completely different with my life as other people seemed to be. I had already done something completely different with my life — in 2000 I decided to work on a Filemaker project at the publishing house I worked for, and in 2002, I quit my publishing job so I could finish the Filemaker project without having to do another full-time job on top of it. When that was done, a few months I figured, I would figure out what I was going to do next.

As it turned out, the project went on for years, and I kept finding people who needed help with Filemaker, so I haven’t had to figure anything else out yet. (To use a term I first read in Fred Brooks’s classic The Mythical Man-Month, I accidentally discovered a career as a metaprogrammer.)

And it’s funny, I get strange looks when I say this, but I really love Filemaker. It’s great to have found something that is useful and helps people, and where my perfectionism and obsessiveness are actually a benefit, both to me and to others, rather than a big pain in the ass rear, which is what they usually are. In the past — and in most other things — it just makes my life miserable. But with design and database work, things really do have to be exactly right. So instead of making me spend way more time than I need to on things that don’t really matter, it actually allows me to do things much better than the average person.

At the time I did my food project, things were a little bit weird with my Filemaker work because the client I’d been doing the most work for had told me they wouldn’t have anything for me until their new fiscal year started in July. They told me this in January. That’s a while. And they had a new system being built, so I wasn’t sure what was going to happen in July either.

So when everyone was telling me I could use this project as a launching pad to a new career, I was like okay that’s great, but I already started a new career, and I really like it. I don’t really want to run a website or be a motivational speaker, I would just like to do Filemaker and have people with money hire me to do things for them.

And this is where “be careful what you wish for” comes in, because right now I’m working on three projects, with one pro bono project waiting in the wings (poor thing, it’s been there since I started my food project and everything in my life got derailed) and feeling a little bit overwhelmed.

So … I have a bunch of wrap-up posts on food and health — I feel like I’m done with this issue, just need to write everything up and get it posted — and also some other things I’m writing that I think will be worth reading. But I’m probably not going to get any of that up until September.

I do have a few things that are nearly ready that I’ll try to get up soon. But aside from those, probably not much will be going on here for a little while.

So I hope everyone enjoys the rest of the summer, and I wish everyone (including but not limited to me) a productive few weeks.

4 Responses to “And now we’ll take a short break…”

  1. fernando Says:

    Hi, so, it seems like you might actually think on abandoning us. snif! snif! you didnt say it, but it sounded like it.

    Im a blogger-reader (Im not sure there is yet a term for a blogger fan) and for what I see, saw in other blogs, it’s time for you to make a shift in the way your blog works.
    Right now, your blog is a more one side blog: you write, we read. And I belive its really good because you’re great writing. But maybe it’s time to let other put back some feedback and give something to the blog also. How to do it, it’s your call, and if you don’t want to do it, I’d be the most happy one beacuse I really, really love to read you. But I see also that you write less and now you need some space-time to figure out what’s next here.

    I hope, beg would be a better word, you don’t stop writing.. but if you want to, I wish you all the luck in everything.

  2. lessisenough Says:

    No, not abandoning you! I have lots more to write, I just need to focus on one thing at a time.

    For the next few weeks I need to get some work done, then I’ll get back to writing.

    And that’s an interesting idea about having more back and forth, or a some kind of format for reader input, but I’d have to figure that out and make it work, and that seems harder — and even less interesting — than writing. At least I like writing! It’s just hard, and takes a lot of energy.

    But I’m glad you like it, and I appreciate your telling me. And this won’t be the last anyone hears from me. Just a little break…

  3. Kate Says:

    I have a deep fondness for FileMaker also, despite having only used an early/mid 1990s version of it and using that right up to today (my current work place just barely uses it. It’s not part of my job, but I’m the one they ask when they get lost.)

    So you set up FileMaker for various businesses/projects–so they can enter their various data and get the various products they need from the data? Or is it more meta than that?

  4. lessisenough Says:

    Sorry for the delay in getting to this. I was having so much fun taking a break that I failed to check comments…

    Generally what I do is set up a system to track … something … using Filemaker. Publishers need to track book projects (including contracts, author information, book information etc.). The Scrap Exchange needs to track all kinds of things — events and donors and suppliers and volunteers, so I’ve set up a bunch of different files for them. I did one for a custom furniture maker, and a few for nonprofits tracking volunteer or donors.

    Often what happens is that someone will use Filemaker for a simple in-house system that someone who doesn’t know much about databases sets up. This is awesome in the beginning because it’s so much better than nothing, and it’s so flexible and easy to use that they keep adding things to it. So they add and add and then after a while everything gets very messy because they don’t have a very good structure and they start running into problems. So they call me and I come in and revise with a proper structure and clean things up and send them on their way.

    Those are actually the projects I like best, because it’s pretty clear what people need and how to fix things. And by the time they find me, they’re really happy to have someone who knows what they’re doing. More than one of my clients gives me hugs and kisses when I walk in the door.

    The harder ones are when they’re building from scratch, because you can end up in an endless cycle of development, making all these changes of things people think they want without actually having used it. This is a drag.

    You’re much better off doing something basic, working with it for a while, then revising. (Though the danger with that is you work with a flawed system because you never get around to revising it. But in my experience, a flawed system that needs to be revised is better than a fabulous system that takes so long to set up that the organization is out of business by the time you finish. That did in fact happen to me once. It still pains me.)

    So that may be more than anyone wanted to know about what I do, but there it is. And I’m happy to talk more about that if anyone is interested. Usually everyone’s eyes glaze over and they start thinking of reasons to leave when I start talking about Filemaker :)

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