5 Steps to Overcome Coder's Block

5 Steps to Overcome Coder's Block

Getting those creative juices flowing

Have you ever decided to try coding a new project and suddenly realize you’re not sure where to start?

You get pumped, grab some coffee, pop open that code editor and … crickets, nothing, nada!

This is especially true when you are first learning to code or getting started with a new language. You read some intro to “whatever” blogs, follow along with some tutorials, but when it comes down to trying to code your first real “thing”, it is like a wave of writers block swoops in and steals your mojo.

It can be a real confidence thief. I mean you thought you were just getting the hang of things, but now the doubt creeps in.

Listen up! You can do this : )

How do you get un-stuck and get things flowing again?

1. Sketch it out

Grab a pen and paper or a white board and marker and sketch out what you want to create.

Even if what you are trying to accomplish is not that complicated, like a blog site, or a to-do app or some other “classic” (aka … been done 100 times thing), drawing it out can get the juices flowing.

Sketch out your interface a bit. Draw out your data structures. Start with a little pseudo code on the logic you need. Starting to see things written out can really get things flowing a little more.

2. Start with the easy stuff.

Do some of the routine stuff to get your project set up.

Set up some files and folders that you will need. Get your base HTML page set up. Wire up that JavaScript page and tie it in. Start your CSS page and link it in.

Do all the set up stuff and it will get you moving. It doesn’t take a lot of mental energy, but you do need to do it anyway. This part could become a good routine or ritual for you. It is like a mental trigger that gets you into the right “zone” or mental place to start working.

3. Code as if no one will ever read it.

Coding is a process of discovery. There is a lot of trial and error. Mistakes and revisions are part of the process. Don’t start censoring yourself and fixing things before you have really begun.

Don’t get hung up on “style guides” or application architecture. It does no good to ask, “Is this the shortest possible syntax to do …”. Don’t try to make it cute or fancy right away.

Just start coding.

Just pick up a piece of logic and start working on it. Yes, you may need to go back later and refactor, but don’t start trying to make it a work of art from the jump.

4. Don’t hesitate to look it up.

I think that it is awesome to stretch your coding skills by doing little exercises and projects independently, however going back and looking at documentation is helpful too. Honestly, sometimes you don’t even know what you don’t know until you try to actually apply it.

It can make plenty of sense when someone else is doing it or explaining it. When you go to do it on your own … the real understanding is tested. Then you start to recall, hmmm … didn’t they talk about this? I don’t quite remember how that worked. Or, they said there was something extra I had to do here and I don’t remember.

Go back and look.

Google a question and start digging for some answers.

All good developers refer back to documentation so don’t beat yourself up for not having everything figured out from the start.

5. Just say “NO” to copy & paste.

Do yourself a really big favor and type it out.

When you are following along on a tutorial type it out, don’t just grab the final source code and follow along. If you find an answer in the documentation examples or on Stack overflow, don’t just copy, paste and tweak. Do yourself a solid and type it out.

  • Pay attention to the syntax.

  • Think through why each line is there and what it is doing.

  • What is the purpose behind each part?

  • What part of this needs to change to fit into your code or logic properly?

You can learn a lot more when you really engage and work with the code rather than watching like a spectator or copying it over.

The end result is worth the work

A blank canvas is intimidating for any artist.

A blank piece of paper can be daunting for any writer.

When you are coding your own “thing” and starting from scratch, it can be a little overwhelming too.

I’m honestly not sure if that little quiver in your stomach ever goes away.

Eventually, when you have pushed through and created something new enough times, you might start to recognize that feeling as the start of something awesome. It just might become your favorite feeling.

Keep on coding!

Susan … @LadyCoder

Susan Wands avatar
About Susan Wands
Full-Stack Developer / UX Designer / Speaker
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