The rhythym method

An interesting phenomenon was recently brought to my attention. I thought I was the only person who rode a sine-like wave of passion for software development. It would appear, however, that I am not alone. Filthy Phil recently confirmed this behaviour in himself. I wonder if there are others out there?

It’s fairly simple to describe the symptoms. It starts with the peak of the wave. You dive headfirst into a new development project. Maybe it’s a new problem, or you see a new angle on an existing solution, or it’s just a simple little routine, or an entirely new application. Ah, new love blossoms! If it weren’t for the demands of ablutions and nutrition, you could sit at your PC 24/7; tweaking, hacking, coding. Your fingers dance across the keyboard and the algorithms just seem to flow straight from your brain, down through the keyboard and right onto the screen. The sun shines on a field of flowers as lambs and bunnies frolic together.

Slowly though, the rot seeps in. You might have hit a bit of a wall, or maybe it’s just that you need to code some repetitive switch statement. Maybe you just get distracted by that annoying QA guy, or you just can’t hold your bladder any longer. Try as you might, you just can’t reignite that spark. Pecking listlessly at the keyboard, nothing ‘flows’. There is no frolicking lambs, just a big ugly bull chewing on the last dandelion and farting Kyoto-grade methane.

I thought it was just my ADD-cum-manic/depressive personality reflected in my coding. But lo! Filthy Phil, a self-confessed lesser coding god, has the same issues. Phil, the man that can come home from 8 hours of Java at work, and stay up till 2am coding some godforsaken custom 3D engine… in Java. I thought he if anyone would be immune.

Phil’s solution is to ride the wave. Stay in the green room as long as you can, but when the coding gods kick you out, accept it. [Is it wrong that I wanted to put ‘, grasshopper’ instead of a full-stop there!?] Accept it, nay, ride the dark wave even! Go and hire some crap video game, or find a really, really badly written UI and force yourself to use it. Anything to cause the “shit I could do better than that” demon to jump up on your shoulder and give you an earful.

So my code-monkey brethren, come and join me in a group hug. Confirm that I’m not alone. What do you do to keep the code fires burning; what do you do when someone pours a bucket of cold sick on them?

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  1. Ah…a well-known phenomenon in my line of work. You may call it coder’s block, grasshopper.

    In fact, scientists have determined that it is your bottom telling your brain that it needs some oxygen and that if you don’t get up and take a walk soon you might lose the use of your legs permanently. See, that’s why your coding (or writing) turns to arse. Bottombrain shortcircuit.

    Mmm, but you’re right… when you’re flying along – it’s so good! Gorgeous description of it 🙂 Sounds like Teletubbie-land.

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