Coder Block

OK, I’m a little embarrassed to admit but I’ve suffered from coder’s block this week. It’s a state similar to writer’s block which is “a usually temporary psychological inability to begin or continue work on a piece of writing”.

I think probably everyone suffers it from time to time and, although I haven’t had a case for a several years, this has come at a most inopportune moment because we are on a very tight schedule with our current release.

I guess it’s a little like depression in that you can’t just mentally “fix it”, you need to work through the cause. In this case I don’t think it’s an inability to write code, it’s more a case of too many possible solutions to the problem in question. They are all good but none are perfect. In particular one of the requirements is to allow additional code generation (note – not just an add-in, this is adding to the system) post release by our professional services engineers. This is hard for me because my brain prefers to work spatially – I need to see the design animated in my head before I code it up; not something that’s possible if an unknown chunk of code if going to be added by someone at a later date. Talking with other developers didn’t help because all that did is give me more good solutions to consider.

The other problem is that a number of very intricate details have to be thought about or the implementation won’t meet the requirements. Completely overwhelming if you look at them together so on Friday I decided to take a leaf out of the extreme programming book – baby steps. I started by ignoring the mass of requirements and implementing a really small section. By lunchtime I was back in the flow, I managed to check-in something yesterday evening and things are looking to be back on track.

So if you are suffering similar then I can offer the following advice:

  • Take a break and do something completely different like go for a walk, however doing this too often is just procrastination
  • Try and work out what is causing the block and fix those issues one at a time
  • Take small steps to get something (anything) working
  • If all else fails, see if you can swap your feature with another developer

What do you think?

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