How to enjoy code, even after a full workday of staring at it

I’ve been a software developer for several years, wearing different types of hats and helping people build and deploy small and large projects. And sometimes I don’t find coding fun anymore.

Don’t get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoy what I do, but I realized that some of the “spark” was fading, that kind of wonder you got when you wrote your first script and it was like coming up with the right incantation to make the over-sized calculator in front of you do exactly what you wanted. Sure, it might have been just printing “hello world”, but at that moment, it was awesome.

The longer you work in software and the larger the projects you are involved in are, the more conversations get directed into a different direction: does it scale?, what’s the deploy strategy?, what is the right DB to support this?, what language will give me the best performance for this? does this align with the product vision?, what’s the business plan? All very valid and interesting questions in their own right, but I think the fun of coding is somewhere else; somewhere simpler and with lower stakes. Not everything you code needs to be life-changing, a million dollar idea or even useful. And that’s fine.

Coding for the sake of coding can be a fulfilling activity on its own, and I’ve realized that finding that balance between writing professional-grade software and simple side scripts (yeah, not even big enough to be projects) can help immensely in keeping you excited about the simple act of making your computer say Hello World.

So now that we know this, how do we achieve it? I’ve learned that the secret is generally not taking yourself too seriously.

  • Keep a notebook around and write down those dumb ideas that pop up randomly during the day (I use Google Keep for this), or record yourself as something pops up. Remember, no idea is too dumb to at least write it down.
  • Try and keep them scoped and simple. This is not meant to become a year-long project (but if it does and you are still having fun, go for it!)
  • Use at least one language/tool/tech that you find interesting and would like to explore. Don’t look at the edges too hard beforehand, you’ll probably find them naturally as you own curiosity guides you there while exploring it in a fun way. Sometimes not having a plan is the best plan
  • If you feel like its becoming a chore, drop it. Maybe for a couple days, maybe for a week, maybe forever. The low stakes mean no harm no foul and the goal of this is to have fun.

Try it out and who knows, maybe your next great idea pops up while exploring all the not-so-good ones.

Have fun!

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Chilean Software Developer living in the USA. Se habla español.

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Alejandro Baltra

Alejandro Baltra

Chilean Software Developer living in the USA. Se habla español.

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