For the better part of my adult life, I worked in kitchens, starting as a dishwasher, working my way up to chef. And like any good chef, I never forgot the importance of that first position. Hell, I often referred to myself as chief cook and head dishwasher. I always explained to owners and other staff, dishwasher is the most important position in a kitchen. Everything breaks down if that person is missing, fails, or is simply mistreated and unhappy.
Thus I never strayed too far from the pots and pans. Often times, I would jump in and scrub pots, both as an example to the rest of the staff that no one person was above any job in the restaurant, and as a way to ground myself. While it isn’t a creative job, it gave me that mental break to think about a dish that was bouncing around my head, or an opportunity to breath mentally.
I’m still looking for that in web development. A task to bounce to that is both familiar and productive yet affords me an opportunity to consider a problem I’m tackling. I’ve experimented with coding standards, as I now use linters, but since it wasn’t something I’ve been doing since I started as a self-taught developer, I don’t have the muscle memory or comfort level to dive into a project and start cleaning up. That is more of something I do as I go.
The closest thing I’ve come up with is working on my own blog. It’s a place to experiment, break things, and most importantly, not a project with a deadline. If you are reading this on the site (or even via the feed) you most likely see the rough edges. I’ve become comfortable with them. I want to smooth them all, and have a running list of them, but as soon as I knock one item off, I find 2 more.
And that’s OK. It will always be that way, as again, I’m constantly experimenting, tweaking and most importantly, it is mine. My own personal space to do as I please and retreat to when I need a mental break.