coding again, from the writer that doesn't write
I spent last night trying to create a class scheduling tool for my tutoring company's student portal in ReTool. ("Trying" being the operative word here.) One of the company founders asked me if I wanted to take on some dev tasks and I didn't refuse. What could go wrong with some experience and spare cash?
It took me less than an hour to remember why I hate doing this. When everything goes smoothly, life is great. Except when I develop anything most of my time is spent stuck trying to fix obscure bugs with little to no documentation. Every time I hit a snag my brain goes into Frustrated Mode and I bang my head against the wall instead of coming up with a methodical approach. The great programmers I know patiently try out every possible fix and come up with conclusions based on the results. I don't have the 耐心1 to do even half that. Fixing complicated things in general infuriates me.
My parents seem to think a big reason I'm so bad at coding is because I think I'm bad at it. They might have a point; I've always harbored a fixed mindset, not its fashionable growth counterpart. I believe I'm good at certain things (standardized test-taking, music auditions) and like with many things in life they usually reveal themselves to be self-fulfilling prophecies. It served me very well in school.
Fixed mindset: "In a fixed mindset, people believe their basic qualities, like their intelligence or talent, are simply fixed traits. They spend their time documenting their intelligence or talent instead of developing them. They also believe that talent alone creates success—without effort."
Growth mindset: "In a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment." (Dweck, 2015)
Not having a growth mindset hurts me whenever I attempt technical tasks. The problem is, G.I.Joe was wrong — knowing is certainly not half the battle! Being aware of my negative self-belief isn't the same as convincing myself I can get better, especially when there's so much evidence to the contrary. I'm not sure how to do it, or how long it will take. Something tells me if I've been so bad at software engineering for so long it's probably a lost cause for me. And I've largely accepted that, I think. (I say as I take on more tasks.)
Rubber duck debugging (or "rubberducking") worked surprisingly well for me yesterday. Rubberducking involves explaining to a third party (a rubber duck, a friend) the issue. Oftentimes while describing an issue the problem will become apparent. The issue is that I'm awful at suspending disbelief and rubberducking when I'm alone. I need the pressure of not wanting to waste someone else's time before the gears start grinding in my head. (Though ChatGPT has helped me out with this on the occasions I remember to use it.)
On the bright side, I realized that in spite of my difficulties doing this new development task, I have learned something from my last job, no matter how scant my experience. And being this busy and stressed has kicked off my writing brain again. But I really need to learn to prioritize the important things, not get distracted by side quests, and say no to things I don't want to do. (Though this was a First Time so I'll give myself a pass for that.)
A fellow writer at my tutoring company asked if I was interested in being part of a new writers club with other team members. I was thrilled to accept (especially after avoidancetheory's recommendation that I do so), but my heart fell when I saw that each member would have to bring in their own work. (Actually needing to write in a writers club? I'm shocked, I tell you.) I'm in the unenviable position of being known a "writer" at work but not actually having any writing to show for it (at least not that I'd like to share with coworkers), and I don't know how to fix it! I could either try to squeeze out a piece outside of my comfort zone (booo) or share one of my blog posts for workshopping. But I don't wish to divert my limited energy to writing something out of obligation, nor do I want people I barely know in real life reading all my intimate thoughts. For the time being I countered their offer by asking if I could join to listen in and share feedback without presenting my own original writing. I hope they say yes.
The power went out late last night when I was asleep. When speaker static woke me up in the wee hours of the morning, I experienced a moment of abject terror. Why were all my lamps on? What day was it? I had no idea if it was January or November, and while trying to fall back asleep I was unsettled by how it easy it was for me to imagine the months passing me by like this, applying fruitlessly for jobs. What would I do if it were in fact 2025 and I didn't yet have a job? How would I pay for my medications once I got kicked off my parents' health insurance? Would I have to choose between dipping into my savings and not taking my medications? It was all too easy to spiral downwards catastrophizing at 3 in the morning.
'Patience' in Mandarin, except for whatever reason it has a different flavor than the English word to me.↩