Cover image for How I got out of that “Tutorial Purgatory” as a learning developer

How I got out of that “Tutorial Purgatory” as a learning developer

paulc_creates profile image Paul Caoile ・3 min read

I want to share with you my journey for overcoming “Tutorial Purgatory.” That need to learn more and to consume every available video tutorials before building anything on my own. The most significant accomplishment I had recently that help me get out of this rut was with being apart of Pass the Pen project. My confidence has improved after this.

First off, A Big thank you to everyone who was involved in this project; this was a team effort. Special mention to Kristopher Van Sant, Dominic Duffin, Ryan Saunders, Antoine Guillien, Cheryl Velez and to others who have contributed in this project. If there are any names I have forgotten here, please do let me know.

Now you might be asking, what is this Pass the Pen project that I'm mentioning here? Well, to put everything into context, Pass The Pen is a collaborative project where the community creates Pens together. Someone starts off a codepen and pass along to continue to build according to a theme chosen.

Here is the original post from Kristopher Van Sant on Pass The Pen. Creator of Pass the Pen Project.

Pass The Pen

Here is the “Escape Room” project in codepen where you can check it out yourself. I believe the concept of this theme originated from Cheryl Velez.

Escape Room!

I first came across this project in a codepen newsletter. I badly needed to get out of that “Tutorial Purgatory,” where I heavily rely on project tutorials all the time. I thought the best way to do that is to join a community and start collaborating with other developers.

I have been hesitant because I wasn't sure I could contribute and that my skill level is sub-par. After a month of procrastination, I finally joined the Pass The Pen Project. I incorporated one of the 100 days of CSS Challenge that I have already done and created a puzzle out of it. After a week, I submitted my work, went back and forth with the community in refining it until finally came time to put all the puzzles together.

My wife and I had our second baby, and he was three months old at that time when I decided to join this project. Most of the household responsibility was on me and taking care of his big brother as well. Then there was a period where my kids kept getting sick. There was just so much responsibility to juggle that I was getting overwhelmed.

I wanted to see this project through fruition, so I stuck through despite having difficulty finding the time. I took my time and chimed in the community chat whenever I can. What I admire most in this community was that there's never the pressure of what or when I can contribute.

I had joined other projects before wherein the beginning all was well. But then later slowly losing momentum up to the point where other developers just lost interest, and the project died. I digress here. Let’s get back to the fun stuff.

The last few months is where everything falls into place. Kristopher Van Sant puts together the puzzles into one pen, and we started debugging and testing and refining more and more. We had a great time coming up with new ideas and working out some quirks on some of the bugs found. I had this idea to display locks that would unlock once you have solved a puzzle. I struggled with developing the functionality with the locks because I was making it more complicated than necessary. In the end, I learned to keep it simple. It’s okay to repeat an element or two. What’s important is the outcome and deliverability.

I had a fantastic experience collaborating with these developers, special mention to Kristopher Van Sant @rosieebob and Dominic Duffin @dominicduffin1 . If you ever come across them in twitter, do say hi! If you have work with them on some other projects, then you know how excellent they are.

The main takeaway for me being apart of this project was have that patience to stick to it and finish the project no matter the circumstances. Start with what I know and figure out the rest along the way. Stepping out of my comfort zone, not knowing the outcome is something I have to keep reminding myself to do despite having done it before on different circumstances. Having empathy is the foremost skill to have, reciprocating patience, and humility becomes second nature with this. Especially when collaborating with other developers whom you never met. The experience I gained here definitely helped me get better overall and overcome that reliance on tutorials. I will continue to join and contribute to projects when the opportunity comes.

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Paul Caoile


Father, Coffee drinker and a Life long learner passionate about Front-end Development


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Hey Paul. Participating in the Pass the Pen has had a very positive effect on my development as well. I have learned so much from everyone who participates. Each Pen is a challenge, and I love a challenge. I'm so glad you were able to learn new things and push the limits of your own development skill. One thing I realized early on is that in this community, it doesn't matter what your skill level is. Your contributions will inspire and educate someone who's just starting out. Thanks for the shout out and happy coding! - Cheryl Velez (Grumpy Bunny)


Hi Cheryl, sorry for the late reply. I thought i replied already. Your participation on this has definately helped me improve. All positivity def resonates with the community. Big Thanks to you as always.


Love this article! I have been looking for some projects I can join. Thanks for sharing this one!


Thanks, Angela. Yeah definitely join in on the next pass the pen or give shout out if you find any fun projects to join in. :)


This is cool but I can’t see what’s the problem with tutorials here...


Thanks, Fabio. Since I'm a self-taught developer, tutorials provided me the fundamentals I needed to learn. It's the dependency that I have developed along the way made it difficult for me to build or solve problems on my own. I wouldn't know what to do without having a video tutorial on the side. Fixing a bug or an issue isn't always parallel with what I learned from the tutorials. Having done this project liberated me from relying on video tutorials and breakdown a problem into small solvable chunks. :)


Of course tutorials are not made to teach you how to work, but, to teach you how a language, or a framework works.
I read a lot of books and I see video tutorials every day, but it's also true, that I work every day with the code.
The tutorials are useful ... the problem is to watch them without writing code on your own.


Thank you for your kind words, Paul!


I'm really glad to have the chance to work with you on this project. It was definitely a lot of fun.