I've been messing around with C++ in preparation for some of my 2021 goals. I haven't actually written anything in C++ since I was in university, and given the quality of what I wrote I'm surprised I graduated at all.

But what I've been trying for the last few days has been a lot of fun. Maybe it's because I'm writing what I want instead of code to pass an assignment, or maybe it's because there's a familiarity to it so I feel like I'm learning quicker.

I really enjoy trying to code up an idea and then seeing it come to life. Even after 25+ years of writing code, I still get enjoyment from seeing the ideas in my head becoming a reality.

But at some point I get a little carried away and try to create something outside of my abilities. And then the fun stops.

In my recent C++ adventure I managed to get a little pixel sprite moving around, all working on the Atari ST. That's something I never thought I'd be able to do.

But already my mind is thinking 200 steps ahead. Because the tool allows me to create something good, surely I must use it to create something good. I think this is similar to the problem I have with art supplies; part of my brain thinks better tools will improve my skills, rather than the other way around.

Even if I focus on something small, eventually I get to a point where working on it just feels bad. I'm not sure if that means I only enjoy the first 20% of a project, or if it's something deeper.

My hunch is that I enjoy the first part because it's all about discovery. I get to learn new things, and there's usually a quick turnaround between trying something and seeing it work. When I'm learning something new, I'm only concerned about the result, not how it's achieved. I allow myself to fail multiple times until it works.

Once I move past learning new things, everything changes. I start bumping up against areas where my skillset isn't so good. I have to make design decisions. Things start breaking and my motivation tanks. So I put it aside and learn something else, but all that gives me is a hard-drive full of half-baked prototypes. That's not what I want.

So where does that leave my little pixel sprite? My normal approach is to make a small prototype and then slowly grow it into the (un)finished article. I think this time I'll take a more practice-oriented approach, testing out new ideas and techniques separately, before building on that experience to create something new.