Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Software Development and Writer's Block

I'm sure everyone has seen the scene in a movie where a writer is struggling with how to start his novel, short story, newspaper article. He stares at the page. Types a sentence fragment, and then in frustration rips the paper from the typewriter, balls up the page and tries again.

You see this process repeat and they intermittently cut to a shot of a waste paper basked with paper wads piling up.

An alternate version of this scene replaces the typewriter with a pen and paper and lot of scrawling and scratching out of mistakes before balling up the page.

I suppose these scenes don't work as well today with word processors so maybe "the kids" stumbling across this post don't know what I'm talking about.

Anyway... I experience the same thing when developing software, or more specifically when starting a new project*. While many people view software development as a mechanical, technical exercise... fundamentally its still an a creative act.

Just like a writer struggling with that opening sentence

"It was a dark and stormy night..."

... I sit and stare at a blank text editor and think, "where do i want to begin.? Where am I going with this?".

I wonder if other software developers out there experience the same thing but whenever a I google'd for "Writer's Block" and programming (or software) I end up with links to commercial software package that helps writers brainstorm ideas to deal with Writer's block.

Inevitable just like with writers... once you do finally start, things tend to flow quickly... at least until you get stuck on the next major "plot point", but usually the biggest hurdle is where to begin.

* - I specifically mentioned "starting a new project", because enhancing or debugging an existing project is much closer to the traditional process of editing.... which is still a key skill any author should have, but it presents a different set of problems and I'm not sure that "Writer's Block" is one of them.

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