Student Journey – with Lily Montague

Published by Tim on Saturday May 21, 2022

Last modified on January 25th, 2024 at 14:07


What sparked your interest in creative coding and how did you get started?

For me, growing up, I was always told that I’d only ever make any money if I did the sciences (haha), but I really loved art, I really loved english and the expression that you can get through art.

You know I wanted to go to university, but I wanted to do something that harmonized those two things. That’d be science and maths and that type of very analytical thinking, but then also creative expression which makes me feel like myself, makes me feel really happy.

I just found Creative Coding as a university course and have begun that – I’ve never written a line of code before I started a three year degree course about it. And then completely fell in love with it. That’s definitely what sparked me, but yeah, I fell upon it very randomly.

A lot of degrees feel a bit like you do something, and it shuts off doors. As if you’re not doing the degree and then opening up this whole range of possibilities. Whereas with Creative Computing, I started this degree and I don’t feel like it has closed off opportunities – it’s more like “Whoa, I can do ANYTHING!” (haha). It’s a great feeling!

Which obstacles did you face in your learning process?

Before I met this community, it can just feel like a really solitary thing.

And because none of my friends have ever done it, it’s not like maths or english – this is in the UK anyway – that you don’t really get taught coding in school, so I didn’t really feel like there was anyone I could ask. And the online channels (e.g. StackOverflow) I find a bit intimidating.

So I think initially I found that difficult. But then finding communities like this was just such a big help!

What are your problem-solving strategies and how has the community helped you?

I’d say the problem-solving strategies for me are quite mental. Because I think coding is something where it’s not necessarily the ability, because there’s all the information out there, online or in books. But it’s more that you just have to believe that you CAN do it. Especially when you get an error message that just feels like it’s written in a different language (haha).

But yeah, you can do it! So for me, I try to take a bit of time-out, psyche myself up, and when i come back see it with new eyes. Also verbalizing it, talking about it, I find that really helpful.

The community has given me a chance, to be able to verbalize and talk about my problems within the code, to people that are going through the same thing. I think it’s like a shared experience and that really helps!

What inspires you? Artists/ musicians/ something?

It’s difficult to pick a few! (haha)

I really like reading. And there are writers like Ali Smith, who’s one of my favorites. She really inspires me, because she is able to put the human experience into words, the experience of living day-to-day.

Which, for me, is something that I would really like to be able to play a part in. Or in terms of explaining that to others, like with the community, showing people that we are not all alone, that we are all living every day, all together, at the same time – and it’s difficult to remember that sometimes.

Sometimes it’s the people really close to me as well. Friends, or people in the community, seeing how happy they are when they’re out there doing things. And how happy we all are to be working on our own determinations. That always really inspires me as well.

Do you have a dream-project that you would like to realise at some point?

Yes. I cannot believe that I’ve done an entire year of a Creative Coding course and never learned anything about the implication of technology. We are all on this journey where technology is becoming what it is – an integral part of our lives – and we just don’t get taught about what that means.

And when we do get taught about it, it’s always a really negative side: “It’s ruining everything, everyone is depressed and sad”. I just think a project I’d really like to do is something about education, about technology and its implications within society – it posits negatives, but then also the solutions for that.

I’d love to do big billboards, that’d be the best, sparking something in someones brain. Hard-facts, that inspire people to learn more about it, so they don’t feel so helpless or hopeless. Yeah, I’d really love to do big billboards, or a little video, or a book – something like that, that’d be so much fun.

I think because technology is so complicated, it’s really easy to feel like it is just above us and away from us. Or the way algorithms work, like I could never understand that, I just have to be a slave to them. It feels like that’s the only way that I can get noticed online or get a job.

Regaining a bit of self-confidence in your own capability, to take action for your own success, your own life, that’s really important. To remind people that we all have that.

What advice would you give to others who want to start creative coding?

Use the internet as a tool. Just do a little bit every day, or as much as you can. Because once you get over that initial hurdle, it opens up so much and it’s so worth it. And it can make you so happy.

When I talk about it to friends, that I do it, everyone is like “Wow! That must be so cool!” but it’s easy, everyone can do it.

I guess my advice would be:

Don’t even think about it too much. Don’t think about wether you can do it or wether it’s too hard or too easy. Or if it’s worthwile, or got any purpose. Just have a go, have fun! Because I’m someone who always overthinks things, but it’s really fun and really playful.

You can use that to do incredible things, so it’s worth putting in the time. And you meet amazing people as well. “Rewarding” is a very good word for it.


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