One of the most amazing periods of my life is something unexpected.
It was 2017 and I was learning to code for the first time at a bootcamp. I went to class at 9am and left at 6pm. It sounds like a full time job but it was more like rock climbing to me: super fun, palpable growth, moment by moment. It did not feel like a job at all.
While my brain was at times overloaded by concepts and techniques and ideas of the programming world, I felt a certain magical ease. I looked forward to every day of the 3-month-long bootcamp. One thing — one practice — helped me above all to love that period of my life: writing notes and publishing them on a blog (this very blog - this was the first post of the series in 2016).
I had a ritual. Every morning before class, I would get a cup of coffee and some toast at the coffee shop from across the street. I would eat alone, except I wasn’t really alone. I was always talking to myself in my head in those days, running through the things I’d heard and learned from the day before, searching for anything that would jut out, needing a prune or a tidying.
Then, once the toast was gone and the coffee cup was half emptied, I’d pull out my laptop and write about what I’d learned.
Surprisingly, most of the things I ended up writing were social, cognitive, and philosophical observations. Occasionally I also wrote about specific technical things, though not so much.
I look back at this period fondly because of a few reasons.
One, I was writing a lot — once per day or so — and it was all effortless. My mind focused on ideas that were ready for the picking; I just needed to pause and notice them.
Second, I was immersed in a lot of programming ideas, and the writing seems to have worked like an enzyme, reducing the activation energy for my brain’s digestion of all the information.
Third, in hindsight, it’s clear to me now that I was developing not just as a programmer but as a writer at the same time. Two for the price of one.
And finally, it’s a wonderful feeling being able to take a peek at my psyche in the early days of what would be my career in software engineering. It feels good because I know I’ll always have something that I can refer to for grounding myself, a kind of literal beginner’s hat that I could don when I need to. Plus, I can share those posts with young programmers (maybe my own child in the future?) without sounding like a know-it-all.