48h competitions, or jams as they are often referred to, have been around for a while and are incredible opportunities to improve your craft. My personal experience is in the game development world where these types of competitions are very popular. But it doesn’t matter what your trade is, whether you’re an illustrator, musician, programmer or maker – there’s a jam for you.
Jams come in many different flavours and forms. Some are intense 48h experiences which leave you toiling until the last minute, others allow you to go on with your life whilst noodling on the project whenever you have some time. Some jams allow teams; others make you do all the work yourself. There are jams which let you use open source and publicly available resources; others require you to create everything from scratch. However, one thing that they all have in common, is a strict time limit and a theme which gets announced at the start of the jam.
It's just not for me
Whether you’re a beginner or a veteran of your craft, jams will undoubtedly challenge you. You may be forced to do things that you usually avoid. You will have to deliver on time or not at all and you will have to manage your time well. This is the perfect opportunity to make your weaknesses your new strengths, or perhaps a colourful feather in your hat.
If you’ve been working on one project for weeks, months or even years, it’s a good time to put it aside for a weekend and get inspired by working on something else. We tend to get stuck when working on a project for too long without a break, starring ourselves blind on a problem perhaps. The remedy? Jam.
This sounds too stressful
For a limited time, your heart will pound faster, your breath will be quicker, and you will do a bit of perspiring, but that’s OK. What if instead of 48 hours you had 48 days? How many times have you postponed a side project? Did you ever write that novel you’ve been talking about for two years? Did you ever build the Bluetooth speaker for your partner that you’ve slowly been chipping away at? Let’s be honest - It’s easier to be motivated for a short burst rather than weeks. Don’t forget, stress is not your enemy.
In the next part we’ll explore what an actual jam experience might look like, and to answer a very important question; is it worth it? In the meantime, check out some of the jams below.