Trying to Find Balance in Side Projects

I just removed my two iOS apps from sale on the App Store. I hadn’t updated either of them in over a year. It felt bad having them hanging out there, wanting to update to them, but having trouble finding the time, but more importantly, the motivation to do it. It honestly felt like a sigh of relief to remove them. But, it was a hard decision.

Releasing something is often just the beginning, and I seem to always forget this. By releasing these two apps, it felt like a promise I was making to the world that I would keep working on them and making them better and better, especially since one of the apps was paid. I have a strong sense of duty and obligation to the things I build and put out in the world. I think this is good in a lot of ways—in my opinion, it’s an indication that I care about what I make—but it can be exhausting.

It really drags me down when I know there’s a bug, or a requested feature out there that I haven’t addressed yet. And, it turns out that I’m kind of a people pleaser1. If some stranger requests a feature, I expend too much energy making it happen. And for what? Another couple dollars or another star on GitHub? I have a lot of trouble putting stuff out there and not doing everything I can to make it perfect for everyone. I do my best to be responsive and accommodating. I have a hard time saying no. Even when I’m not actively working on it, I’m thinking about how so-and-so requested this feature or reported a bug and it’s just hanging out there.

With everything I have built and released, it comes to a point where it just doesn’t feel fun for me anymore. At first it feels like an exciting new adventure. Then, one day, it doesn’t. It feels like a burden. A collection of tech debt waiting to break. A pit of responsibility I dug myself into.

I don’t really have any answers or lessons learned here. It just feels pretty bad to feel burnt out by the things that used to excite you. It also feels bad knowing that I have abandoned a lot of projects out of fear that people would actually start using them and expect more from them.

Maybe if there’s a lesson to be learned, it’s to not hang onto things longer than you need to. It can feel bad for so many reasons to give up on a labor of love, but perhaps that’s what you need to do to give yourself time, motivation, and energy back. I’m still grappling with all this. I’m perfectly fine giving up on things I haven’t finished, but it feels so different when it’s something that is already out there, being used by people. I’m proud of proud of what I’ve built. There’s a surprising amount of emotion and feelings mixed into code I’ve written and shipped, and it’s hard to let that all go sometimes.

Anyway, I’m glad I removed those apps from the App Store. I can breath a little easier now. Now, I just need to decide what to do with other current projects, and how to handle any future projects. I kinda want to just shut everything down and start fresh. Feels like maybe I shouldn’t, but who knows. At least turn off GitHub notifications and take a break for a while.

  1. As I was reflecting on what to do with my side projects, this realization was a surprise to me. Probably should not have been. But hey, always time to learn something new about yourself.↩︎

March 28, 2022