Image of a young Mozart with a thought bubble that says 'yay, scales!' Image courtesy Wikipedia.
A lot of people are better than you, at a lot of things. Sometimes you just have to suck to get better

Mozart may have started playing the piano at three years old, sure, but I guarantee you that if his parents had Insta, you would’ve cringed through so many clunky, plunky renditions of, Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star …(or whatever little Austrian kids first learned to play in the olden days)… before he composed Minuet and Trio in G major. (And even then, it was a bit of a clunker compared to his future work.)

A doodle of a crying Mozart.
Crying Mozart still has to practice his scales.
An image by Bree

All that to say, that after nearly 10 years of working in digital content communications/writing, I decided to switch careers and become a full-stack developer. After looking into multiple programs in Chicago and across the U.S., I decided to join Lambda School. (Separate blog post on this decision and evaluation coming soon.)

Although generally supportive, some of my tribe voiced gentle concerns to the tune of, “but you’re naturally such a good writer/communicator,” or, “you love what you do,” and “programming is so different/hard/technical and you’re naturally such a creative!” etc.

They were absolutely right; I love writing, and I was good at it.

I was never naturally good at it, though.

Despite their reckoning, I did not actually spring from Zeus’ brow fully formed with a pen in my hand and perfect phrasing in my heart.

Looking back at my published work, it took years before I was even mediocre. When I was in J-school, I was not in the top-tier of writers in my class. I don’t even think I was in the top 50 percent, if we’re being honest.

But I was earnest about making a success of it. So I practiced and kept practicing. Despite them being prohibitively expensive, I took unpaid internships to “gain exposure,” and learned the craft from working professionals. And when I graduated into a recession with newspapers shuttering one after the other, I augmented my writing skills with SEO and content optimization for the web (and eventually mobile). I also learned a bit about responsive design too, enough to tweak a website here and there.

The world of writing/content doesn’t have the concept of a “full-stack writer” but essentially, that is how I built my skills. On the off chance it would help, I even learned how to edit video. I knew that I would be a stronger writer and team player if I knew how to do a little of everything, while continuously honing my core skill.

It worked. In a decade of diminishing writing/editing staff, I was lucky to find meaningful, steady, and full-time work in an industry notorious for having few to none of those things.

So now I’m doing it again at Lambda School. I’m not in the top tier of programmers. I don’t even think I’ll be in the top 50 percent, if we’re being honest. And, given how late I’m starting, I’ll probably never achieve Mozart’s virtuosity as a coder. But I’ve been here before. I just wonder how soon it’ll be before people tell me what a natural programmer I am.