“Creativity is a fundamental aspect of being human. It’s our birthright. And it’s for all of us”
– Rick Rubin, The Creative Act: A Way of Being
If my university had an audio engineering degree, you probably wouldn’t be reading this blog post. In college, I was a DJ, audio engineer, amateur producer, and a (not good) mixing engineer. I spent a lot of time doing all those things and did so with some grounding to reality.
“Can I make a career out of this?” Surprisingly, the answer was “yes”, but it would have required a near-erasure of the line between freeform creativity and required output. In other words, I might have killed my musical hobbies and passions in the process. In fact, I almost did.
In my beginning years of DJing, I practiced a ton. I was pretty busy in high school, but as the years went on, I began taking more and more time to practice. Like something from out of a movie, in my third year heading into my fourth year in particular, I’d run to my bedroom, take my laptop out of my backpack, throw down the backpack, connect the laptop to the budget, magazine controller and get to work. Well… “get to work” meant “flailing and seeing if something sticks”.
There was something very pure with those moments. Something I believe I lost in 2023… or, at least thought I did. We’ll get back to that later.
Fast forward to the end of my time DJing: I was getting gigs left and right, but my studies in computer science were ramping up. Not only that, but I led a team that founded the university’s first ever hackathon series. Something had to change. I chose to wind down my practice and preparation for DJing gigs. Although, I’m not sure what happened first: the gigs beginning to feel more like routine work than fun spontaneity or dwindling amounts of practice and preparation causing the sets to feel stale. Combine both with weeknight gigs that end at 2am and… you can guess what eventually came to pass.
I performed my last gig in May of my third year in university. It felt good to end on a high note as I had multiple back-to-back gigs to celebrate the occasion. Many of my early clients and partners reached out to either work with me one last time or to share kind thoughts on the years working together. All in all, it was a packed calendar of gigs to the end the semester.
I thank my past self often for stopping at this point rather than destroying a passion for music and making creative efforts feel like chores. In fact, that decision is more relevant than ever before.
2023 was a great, but confusing, year for me. From a career perspective, it was the first year where I felt that I was exactly where I wanted and needed to be. Well, that’s not entirely true as I joined System Initiative (SI) in December 2021 and have felt that way since joining. However, I believe it took time for me to realize what was happening to my creative energy.
I usually have side project ideas, blog post drafts, and little creative works going on. In 2023, those things took much more of a side seat than I was expecting. While I do believe the decline of Twitter/X negatively impacted my creative energy for infrastructure software, I do not believe it was the primary contributing factor. I was living life, being more social than ever before, and worked hard in my favorite job yet. What was the problem? That sounds good, right?
The problem was that my creativity was more difficult to trace than ever before. Originally, I had thought my ability to be creative had waned. I was wrong and SI’s co-founder, Adam, showed me why.
Where I had thought my creative energy had been sapped, it had merely been diverted. Rick Rubin’s The Creative Act: A Way of Being was central to our discussion in uncovering this. If you are human, you are automatically an artist. Simply put, deep down, the art I wanted to create in 2023 was System Initiative. That’s where my primary, creative energy went.
I’ve had little to blog about in the industry because I believe in what we are doing more than anything else. I’ve had little desire to create side projects for the same reason. I’ve been laser focused on co-designing and co-authoring a new engine for SI since July 2023 too. Finally, in the background, I had my busiest year outside of work yet, so I did not fully process how (and if) I was tapping into my creative spirit.
To be clear, none of that is bad. In fact, it’s all great! That’s the point. The company had an incredible year, which included exiting stealth, nurturing a growing community on our Discord server, and open sourcing the System Initiative software. Again, what’s the problem?
Well, again, the problem was that my creativity was more difficult to trace than ever before. It took me reflecting on my years DJing to realize this, but my creative energy became exclusively tied to professional endeavors.
Again, that’s not a bad thing, especially since I joined as the fifth person at System Initiative! In a startup, you need passion and creativity to be ever present. I reflected on where my creativity naturally flew, and it made complete sense: my creative energy naturally flew into SI.
What now then? Well, the primary art I want to create in 2024 is the same as 2023: System Initiative. However, I’d like to do things a little differently. I have a desire to reconnect with my creative side outside of SI. Ironically, if you’re reading this around the time of publishing, you likely only know about this blog because of my creative output in the past. This post is a long way of saying that I’d like to create more art… or “art”, depending on your interpretation.
I’m unsure what I’m going to do exactly. With DJing, I naturally let my creative energy take me places. Did I know I wanted to become a DJ? I mean, maybe, but I only really know once I was… well… DJing. Adam put it to me best: “how did you become a DJ? Well, you DJed! Now you’re a DJ.”. Learn something. Write something. Build something. All creative endeavors are like this.
That being said, I have a good idea on where to start. I wrote a new blog post alongside this one: “Path Tracing, Ray Reconstruction and Super Resolution Bring on the Future”. I used to hold back on posts like this because they didn’t stick with the core themes of the blog, which hover around infrastructure software and software development. To some extent, that’s not the worst stance to take. When content creators on YouTube create diverging content and user metrics indicate that something has to give, they may create a second channel. However, I’m passionate about PC and workstation hardware. I feel naturally flowing, creative energy going towards it, so why not create some art… or “art”?
For 2024, I’m going to remembering the teenager rushing into the bedroom to learn how to DJ, flailing and all. Learn something. Write something. Build something. Even if the art I solely work on this year is System Initiative, I’ll do so having been re-attuned to my creative spirit. Here’s to creativity in 2024!