Coding in the Zone

I’m deep in the cod­ing phase on a cou­ple of client projects right now, and once again I’m struck by how much I love this phase of a project. One day, I hope to hire a designer and focus pri­mar­ily on cod­ing and markup on my projects. I do enjoy design work, but time doesn’t fly doing that the way it does while programming.

Coding requires all my fac­ul­ties and all my atten­tion. I enter the “zone” bet­ter through cod­ing than just about any­thing. It’s rare that I find writ­ing absorbs me the way that cod­ing does, although it has hap­pened from time to time. Lately I think my habit of writ­ing only in short fits is not con­ducive to enter­ing the zone, so I’m going to have to start work­ing on cre­at­ing larger block of focus time for it.

What I mean by “the zone” is that beau­ti­ful state of being where your thoughts and actions are one, and time ceases to have mean­ing. Some folks call it “flow.” Even dif­fi­cult things take on an aspect of effort­less­ness some­how when you’re in the zone. Gnawing over a par­tic­u­larly tricky bit can van­ish an entire day some­times –which is risky for me because I have sched­ules to main­tain, so I can’t really get lost in cod­ing work on client work. The best is when I’m tin­ker­ing or learn­ing some­thing new with no expec­ta­tions and a clear sched­ule ahead of me; then it’s not like time goes fast, exactly. It’s more like time ceases to be a mean­ing­ful concept.

I really regret not learn­ing more about pro­gram­ming ear­lier in life. In my first web design busi­ness, I resisted learn­ing any real pro­gram­ming, instead focus­ing on design and markup writ­ing (HTML — CSS barely even existed then). I left the pro­gram­ming to my two busi­ness part­ners. This wasn’t fair to them, and it cost me a lot to not develop that skill set ear­lier. If I got a do-​​over, that’s one thing I would def­i­nitely change for everybody’s sake.

Now that I know how to do it rel­a­tively well (and of course I’m always learn­ing and improv­ing), I can’t imag­ine myself ever giv­ing it up. Programming is pure, dis­tilled prob­lem solv­ing. Every aspect of it involves solv­ing some­thing or other, and that’s pretty much my favorite thing to do. I imag­ine in my dotage, Sarah will be doing cross­word puz­zles and I’ll have the lap­top out, tin­ker­ing away on an app or redesign­ing my per­sonal web­site for the 150th time. There are worse ways to spend a retirement…

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