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Do I Have Coder's Block?

Mel R
Photographer ➡️ Programmer Documenting my Coding Journey Enneagram: Social 9w1 Meyers-Briggs: ENFP
・3 min read

We have all heard of Writer's block... A writer sits down at their computer ready to write a masterpiece. They have their steaming cup of coffee next to them as they open up Word. They see that flashing vertical line staring back at them in anticipation of what will follow. Then... the writer takes a deep breath in and... nothing. Words don't flow easily from their fingertips like they always have before. They feel like something is wrong with them and as they doubt themselves, they get farther and farther away from their potential creation.

This has happened to all of us in some form or fashion. Today, as I was sitting and preparing to write my 5 month coding update, I realized that for the last couple weeks I have been experiencing what feels like writer's block but with coding. I felt like it would be appropriate to call it "Coder's Block".

While I am still completely in love with my career choice of Game Development, lately, I have been staring at VSCode with a blank mind just as the writer stares at their blank page. Fear and self-doubt settle in and I get distracted.

Signs and Symptoms of "Coder's block"

Charlie Jane Anders of came up with the 10 types of writer’s block... They seem to fit well into the "Coder's block" box as well:

1.) You can’t come up with an idea.
2.) You have a ton of ideas but can’t commit to any of them, and they all peter out.
3.) You have an outline your pseudocode written but you can’t get through this one part of it.
4.) You’re stuck in the middle of the project and have no idea what happens to code next.
5.) You have a terrible feeling your story code took a wrong turn a hundred pages lines back, and you only just hit a dead end.
6.) You’re bored with all these characters the current project, they won’t do anything it seems pointless to continue.
7.) You keep imagining all the reasons people are going to say your story project sucks, and it paralyzes you.
8.) You can’t think of the right words code for what you’re trying to convey accomplish in this one paragraph function.
9.) You had this incredibly cool story project idea in your head, and now you’re turning it into words code on a screen and it’s suddenly dumb.
10.) You’re revising your work, and you can’t see your way past all those blocks of text code you already wrote.

I didn't have to change much from this list... Coder's block is just >writer's block for programmers. So how do we deal with this?

Curing "Coder's block"

1.) Find a community that lifts you up Be vulnerable and transparent about your struggles. You will be surprised by how many people have experienced or are experiencing what you are going through now. People want to help.

2.) Get yourself inspired! Watch uplifting videos, read inspiring books/articles, or listen to podcasts/music that boosts your spirit up. Sometimes coder's block is just a lack of creative inspiration. Again, reach out to your community for inspiration and ideas as well.

3.) Work on a **fun project** What do you like? Star Wars? Anime? Dogs? Do a fun no pressure project based on your interests that makes you smile. Sometimes just going back to the basics and remembering why you started coding in the first place by doing a fun project will get you back in the groove!

4.) Take a break from it If you are feeling burnt out, step back a bit and do something else for a little while. Sometimes when we are learning something new, we can over-do it a little because we are excited. This can lead to burnout and over exhaustion. Take care of yourself. Do something away from the computer for as long as you need. When you are feeling refreshed, try again!

5.) Clean up your workspace or go to a calm and relaxing place I love to code at coffee shops. I feel like I focus better. If you are struggling to stay focused or are feeling distracted due to coder's block try either cleaning up the area around you or packing up your laptop and going to a chill and quiet place. The energy around you can make a big difference on your ability to focus.

Thank you for reading! If you can think of other ways that you >have fought off Coder's block please mention them in the comments!

Discussion (3)

crowdozer profile image

#4 and #5 help me a lot these days. It's important to put yourself in a comfortable place where you can easily enter your flow state. It's also soooo easy to feel self conscious and inadequate once the block starts to set in.

I've found a few helpful habits that keep me focused and productive lately:

  • Remind yourself that doing anything is better than doing nothing. We're taught that we should give everything our all and strive for perfection, but I say that's a recipe for procrastination. You don't have to complete that entire issue all at once. You don't even have to write the code. Even if you open your editor and put down a bunch of pseudocode, you're 100% better off than you were an hour ago. Don't beat yourself up over it. By the way, this applies to more than just code, and it might change your life.
  • Ease your way into something that feels overwhelming. I'm the type of person that can do something for hours once I get started, but I can't bring myself to get started in the first place, ya know? Pick something lightweight - like reading docs, blogs, or stackoverflow posts about what you're supposed to be doing - and do that instead. After about 20 minutes, you'll probably be coding.
  • Sleep on it. Seriously, if you've hit a dead end and you feel completely lost, just give it a good night's rest. I've gone through this cycle for months at a time of feeling hopelessly lost then coming back the next day feeling like I've been given arcane knowledge.
  • Remind yourself that you're not an imposter. Read up on what the imposter syndrome is and don't let it get to you. Keeping all of those thoughts at bay will help keep you focused. We all feel as lost as you, I promise.


smeijer profile image
Stephan Meijer
therednigerian profile image

Sometimes, changing my IDE theme helps me get back in the mood