Nearly seven months ago (in April!), I wrote a blog post about how I’d basically dropped off the map as a content creator due not only to the raging pandemic which was still strange and frightening at the time (er, no less scary now unfortunately!), but also to a gut-wrenching ordeal I was going through as a parent. Quick note on that front—status quo has resumed once again and my children are with me regularly and frequently. The Dad is back, baby! w00t!
So that’s unquestionably good news—but otherwise it hasn’t exactly been a walk in the park. Like everyone else, I’ve had to slog and travail through the unmitigated dumpster fire that has been the year 2020. Yet even in the midst of all this insanity, around the same time I published my “slump” article, something unexpected and rather wonderful happened.
I launched a movement.
I’d been wanting to launch something—anything—for so-o-o long. Honestly it had gotten to the point where I didn’t even care what it was I was working on so long as it mattered…like, really mattered. I simply couldn’t stomach yet another year of toiling away in obscurity any longer. It wasn’t that I’d set out to achieve fame and glory merely for the sake of fame and glory. I only wanted to make a genuine impact on other people’s lives. Put that dent in the universe. Go fucking big or go fucking home.
As it turned out, that dent in the universe was Bridgetown.
Bridgetown is a…well, the details don’t really matter to the larger point of this story. (If you really must know, it’s a static site generator built with the Ruby programming language. A tool for web developers. Fun nerd stuff.)
What’s germane to my tale is: when I started work on the Bridgetown project, I had absolutely no idea what might come of it. Quite honestly, I figured I was off my rocker and it’d crash and burn big time. After all, I was forking an existing, fairly well-known open source software codebase sponsored and utilized by a major corporation (a subsidiary of Microsoft no less)—an endeavor that frankly I wouldn’t recommend anybody try on a whim. Who the bleepity-bleep did I think I was anyway? But the thing is, I had nothing to lose! My life was spiraling and the world had gone mad. Anything anyone was doing seemed a little crazy by default.
So I threw caution to the wind and kinda just went nuts with it. I put in a ridiculous amount of time…staying up into the wee hours of night, getting the first real release of Bridgetown out the door, putting a whole new website together, figuring out what the basic “pitch” would be to get folks excited (maybe), reaching out to podcasts I’d never been on before, and so on and so forth. Build it and they will come.
Truth be told, they rarely do. But in this case…they did. One person came. And then another. And then another. And then another. And then some of the first people who had come started to help some of the other people who came later. And before you know it, I was witnessing my little wackadoo software project sprout a life of its own. This wasn’t a mirage, a whimsy, a fanciful expectation of what might be.
This. Was. Real.
Now let me not overstate matters…though several highly active months have gone by, Bridgetown is still a very modestly-sized project and community as far as open source software goes. But the point is that it is a community. A movement. A thing that has legs. A tool that matters to real people. It’s technology that’s powering a bunch of folks’ websites now. Like, for real. If Bridgetown vanished tomorrow, at least a few souls other than myself would mourn its passing.
That’s…a pretty damn good feeling! As a kid who started out building websites in the 1990s (totally fly, dude!), being able to point to something I had a hand in creating decades later and say: “hey, check this out…it’s now helping some folks build their own websites” is a dream come true. In a way, it feels like I’ve finally come full circle. (Because I have!)
And with the relative success of Bridgetown, I’ve had a whale of a good time meeting all kinds of cool people online, expanding my reach on Twitter, and sharing exciting tips and resources—not to mention learning from other tech wizards. I even started yet another blog called RUBY3.dev to encourage and educate Ruby developers near and far. The interest there has completely blown me away. When I pulled up my brand-new newsletter subscriber count after just a few days, I was flabbergasted. Because I can still remember the days when a single new subscriber in a month was cause for celebration. (Let’s be honest: those days weren’t so long ago!)
I honestly don’t mean to say all this to brag. I don’t like tooting my own horn. The reason I want to tell you all this is to reassure you in no uncertain terms that you can do this too! Whatever your passion is, whatever dent you’re hoping to make in the universe…it’s within your grasp. You can get from here to there. After all, I did, and I’m a knucklehead.
I don’t care if your follower count on Twitter is 1. I don’t care if you haven’t even started an email newsletter yet. Be the change you wish to see in the world and go create something awesome. Maybe it will succeed! Maybe it’ll fail. That’s OK. I failed and failed hard for year after year, after year, after year.
And then suddenly I didn’t. And that was pretty cool too. As the saying goes, there are no “overnight successes”. Because as soon as you scratch the surface of that megahit, you find out that it was the result of somebody toiling away in obscurity for weeks, months, years, even decades.
It takes time to make the “good stuff”. Sure you can pick up a cheap slapdash bottle of wine that was aged quickly and tastes like crap. You’ll chug it down and promptly forget about it. Or…you can select that well-produced, hand-crafted bottle of wine by an off-the-beaten-track vintner aged several years, and *chef’s kiss*. You’ll remember that one. Oh yes, you most certainly will.
So take your time. Put in the effort. Experiment. Hone your craft. Discover what stirs the blood. Chase the lion.
In the words of Cal Newport, become so good they can’t ignore you. Because, sooner or later, they won’t.
And then your movement will truly begin.