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TechFest and Too Little Time

Pittsburgh TechFest was Saturday, June 1, 2013. For me, this is like going to a county fair or theme park… minus the junk food I adore. Technology captures my imagination, and I do love new hardware, software, gizmos, and gadgets. But, reality has set in, yet again, and I cannot immerse myself in tech and do everything else I enjoy doing.

As readers know, I've been trying in fits and starts to relearn programming concepts, and then teach myself Objective-C for OS X and iOS applications. I really do love code almost as much as I love creative writing of the English variety. The "almost as much" is the problem.

Annually, TechFest features seminar "tracks" on everything from careers development to Web development. You can go from database sessions to object-oriented programming. It's wonderful, the skills on display and the discussions.

Yet, I am forced to choose between writing or coding, because both require more than a full-time effort for success. Anyone in the tech industry will tell you, it is a 60-hour week if you want to launch a great application. Some things a hobbyist can do, if that hobbyist has a regular job or is a student. I function on five to seven hours of sleep, but I still could never do two full-time jobs and remain sane. Maybe it is my age, but believe there are other factors, too — like a desire to remain sane.

Scholarship, at least for me, has to be a part-time and collaborative effort — simply because I will not put my creative writing on hold again after doing so for more than six years. Personally, I believe that would make my scholarship about writing all the more meaningful; I am a writer, studying writing. If I am hired by a creative writing program, as I someday hope, then my creative output will count as equal to academic papers.

Given a choice between a paper on writing and creating a new work of fiction, I'll go with the fiction. I'm simply not compelled to be a scholar in the same way I'm compelled to write poetry or plays. I sacrificed an important aspect of myself during my graduate studies, and I believe that was a mistake — and a problem inherent in the divisions we imagine between various forms of writing. Easy choice: creative writing trumps academic writing.

It is a much tougher choice to set aside the time I wanted to dedicate to coding. Again, I'm sure that's quite revealing. I'd probably rank programming above academic scholarship, too. That's not going to impress some academic hiring committees, but it should: we need more scholars with cross-disciplinary interests. Computer programming, for a scholar interested in technology and writing, is a natural fit.

Even my creative writing wants to embrace technology. I imagine poetry on screens, interactive and engaging. I envision multimedia plays, mixing live performance with recorded audio and video. Many of the programs I'd like to develop involve writing. I suppose that makes them a form of research and scholarship, potentially. See? Everything does interconnect, unlike how university disciplines are artificially divided on some campuses.

TechFest makes me want to dabble in JavaScript and jQuery. It makes me want to learn more about Ruby, Dart, and Go, simply because these languages exist. The coolest thing at the conference had to be the Processing computer language ( Imagine "LOGO" for the intermediate to advanced programmer: a language tailored to graphics, animation, and other media. Who wouldn't want to spend weeks playing with such a tool?

But, the reality is that after TechFest, I won't have time to play with tech. My efforts to revive my C skills and learn Objective-C have faltered, too. I have to accept that there are too few hours in the day to do everything I enjoy.

Learning a skill takes time. I dreamed of having a month of nothing but programming time, but that didn't happen. Life happened, instead, and that's okay. By the time the month ended that I had hoped to set aside for programming, I had a play being workshopped by a local theatrical company. Another play was submitted to a production company the last week of May. This month, I have to finish a manuscript for a client, an academic presentation for a conference, research for another project, and two plays.

TechFest is reminder of all the possibilities… if I didn't need sleep.


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