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Scrabbling for Mastery

a patzer's journey

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Taking a break in January
me again
Now that the Zyzzyva iPhone app has been released and some of the frenzy has died down, it's time for me to take a break from Zyzzyva development for a bit. I'll be abstaining from development until the end of January, and then it will be time to get back to work.

This last year has taken a lot out of me, especially the past few months. I'm not complaining, because it's been an extremely worthwhile experience and I have learned a lot. It's been a long, difficult task, which is the most instructive and satisfying kind. Mostly I'm writing it down to reflect on the experience and because I think it's interesting.

Near the beginning of development back in March and April, I would work on the app after the kids went to bed a few nights per week. I was mostly just teaching myself how to create an iPhone app in the first place. My wife and I also give each other an individual "night off" each week to leave the house and do whatever we want, and I would generally use my night off for Zyzzyva programming and watching iPhone programming podcasts.

As development progressed and the deadlines started getting closer, the schedules stepped up. During the summer, I started programming not only after the kids went to bed, but during the day on most Sundays and sometimes Saturdays. Everything was still pretty normal but a little more intense.

Then, sometime in October, I switched to the "every waking moment" schedule, where I spent almost the entirety of my existence working on Zyzzyva. All seven days of each week (except my wife's night off and the occasional family function) became Zyzzyva programming time. I would work at my full-time job during the day, go off to work on Zyzzyva during the evening and into the night, and come home to sleep for a few hours before starting again the next morning.

This took a real toll on my family. Fortunately we all understood from the beginning that this scenario would probably arrive sooner or later, and that it would end in December. I kept to the craziness for about three months, voluntarily. I know that a lot of people have to do this all the time just to survive, and the experience has made me feel fortunate that I can choose to stop.

So anyway, January will be a recovery month. I've been spending time with my kids, which is wonderful. I'll be going on a lunch date with my 9-year old daughter this afternoon. I went on an actual date with my wife last night. The other day, my wife also gave me a night off and forbade me from working on anything. I went to a movie, and enjoyed the experience so much that I stuck around and watched a second movie afterward. I don't think I've ever done that before.

Despite the fact that I know I need a break, I'm finding it difficult to keep myself away from Zyzzyva programming. It's been my focus for so long that it constantly pops up when I'm thinking about other things. I have a lot of exciting Zyzzyva stuff to work on starting in February, and I have to force myself not to jump in right away. In the meantime, I'm taking some time to catch up on all the slack I've left in other areas of my life, which helps me at least feel like I'm accomplishing something. I have a hard time when I don't feel productive, which is probably another good reason to take a few weeks and force myself not to be.

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Mike, thanks so much for everything you've done for the Scrabble community. Enjoy your break. You definitely deserve it.

Thanks! I'm trying hard to relax and enjoy it, and I think I'm doing pretty well so far.

i'm glad you like programming enough that working on Zyzzyva isn't too much of a chore. Programming is a lot of fun. I understand your insane schedule. When teaching myself Django/Javascript for the Webolith launch I spent almost every waking moment after work for approximately 2 and a half months developing it, and were it not for my girlfriend's equally crazy medical school schedule I think it would have taken its toll on us. Anyway, not trying to make this about me, but just empathizing with you :) Although it was a tough experience, I learned SO MUCH. I'm looking forward to see what Zyzzyva evolves into, and as soon as I get time again to work on Aerolith I'm picking that up again. Let me know if you want to port it to Android (not that I know how to, but maybe I can help! Like many months from now....)

Also, I concur with Dave's thanks. Thank you! I use Zyzzyva every day on the bus to and from my new job on my laptop (I hope I don't get mugged).

You're awesome, too! I'm really glad I accomplished what I did, but I'm also really glad for a break. I do want to port to Android, but yeah, that will be a while. Sooner rather than later, I'll want to look at replacing word definitions first. I think the crowdsourcing idea we talked about before is a great one, and getting closer to reality. I personally have a bunch of reorganizing work to do before doing anything to set it up, though.

I also feel the same about getting mugged! I used to whip out my laptop on the train all the time, and now I use my iPad. I'm not sure which one I'm more nervous about people trying to steal.

" ... it constantly pops up when I'm thinking about other things."

When I've been working intensely on something, and then want to set it aside for a time, related items keep popping up in my head for quite awhile after. I find that if I jot the things down on a piece of paper I can get my head to stop listing and relisting the items like a grocery list. The act of writing them down seems to get my brain to let them go.

Thanks for the tip... a few years ago I jumped on the Getting Things Done wagon. Dutifully capturing all the tasks that pop into my mind is just about the only practice from the GTD method that I've completely mastered. I'm not so good an organizing and processing them lately, but at least they are written down. It does help a lot to get it out of the head and into a system. Now I just need to work on the system!

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