Much is said about writer’s block, a condition in which an author is unable to produce new work due lack of inspiration. There are many theories about why the creative flow gets jammed and what can be done to let the stream gush again.
I have never heard somebody talk about Programmer’s Block before, but I know it exists because I experienced it. I went through a phase where my productivity as a programmer went down. I would sit in-front of my computer for hours staring at the monitor unable to produce any work. Every option I would think of would seem stupid or flawed. “O I know there is a better way to do this” I would tell myself, but the better way would not occur to me. Every piece of work seemed stupid, trivial and completely un-interesting. Suddenly doing anything other than programming seems more fascinating, like answering my emails, write documentation or go to a meeting. Afterwards I would feel bangs of guilt knowing that I didn’t put in an honest day of work. I would berate myself for being lazy, unfocused and stupid. Next day I would promise myself to double my efforts to be more productive. However the harder I tried the less productive I became. It was a very alarming situation and I had no clue how to address it.
The reason nobody ever talks about programmer’s block is because we don’t view programming as a creative activity same as writing or painting. Programming is supposed to be a science, where logic reigns supreme and any problem can be tackled by methodically following a set of steps. However programming is also a creative activity in which a programmer imagines intricate worlds inside her head that then gets realized on the canvas of ones and zeros. Like all creative activities it needs to be approached with reckless abandon. It requires courage to create something new where nothing was before. Intuition, state of the heart and spirit are involved along with the logic. Who knows about that crazy thing called inspiration, where does it come from? Why does it happen? Why does it stop? The writer Elizabeth Gilbert discusses some of her reflection on these matters in her Ted talk which I found interesting.
Today I realize that my programmer’s block had nothing to do with laziness, productivity or focus and everything to do with the state of my heart at the time. I started programming when I was 13, at that time playing with my computer was no different than playing with Lego blocks … it was fun. I remember in my first job after university feeling guilty about earning a salary, I was having so much fun in my job I would have gladly done it for free. I felt like I should have been paying my employer money for allowing me the opportunity to experience so much joy. Somehow many years later I was still programming, but it was just a job and I was doing it purely for money. I am glad today that I experienced the programmer’s block because it was my hearts way of telling me that something was missing. Forcing myself to do something for practical reasons just doesn’t work. I am a creative person. I am addicted to joy. I pray for inspiration every morning. I dream of creating beauty using my ones and zeros canvas. I am a computer programmer.