in asides

Morning Pages, but for Programming

The thought is that writing three longhand pages first thing in the morning will help clear your mind for the rest of the day. I’m wondering whether something like this would work for programming? Writing code longhand could be tedious, but it could be useful for memorization and for building confidence.

  1. writing code in the morning when we all are supposedly most productive? well after the first coffee any way 🙂 i would say doing anything creative repeatedly in the morning including writing code or writing prose would be awesome! all about the creative repeated ritualistic practise right? go for it!

  2. I think my husband may be The Youngest Remaining Person To Have Written Code Longhand; he took a programming class in the early ’90s when computer time was still hard to come by, so they wrote out all their programs during the day, and then the instructors typed them into the mainframe ( mainframe!!!) by night, and told them the next day if they worked.

    I couldn’t. I simply couldn’t. The tight feedback loop of the REPL matters to me. But…it still affects the way he writes code, and I think is part of why he’s a better programmer than just about anyone I know. It forced him to know a lot, to think through all the edge cases and implications before committing.

  3. I couldn’t write three pages of ANYTHING longhand, at any point in the day (though, especially in the morning, before my ibuprofen kicks in). Maybe I’m wrong to blame my arthritis; maybe I’m just out of practice with writing by hand, and I should make a conscious effort to do so. Still, I’d be more inclined to do it at night, to try to get my thoughts in order so I can settle down and sleep.

    I will say: I trace through the execution of a large piece of code by writing it down on paper. That isn’t quite the same thing as you’re talking about.

    I also ask my students to write out the logic of what they’re going to code before they write any code (in part because, if I’d been taught to do that, I’d be a better programmer now). Still not what you’re talking about–and I don’t make them write it on paper, though maybe that would be worthwhile.

    I guess that I’m just agreeing with you: it seems like a lot of people feel like paper has no place in programming, and I think they’re wrong.

    Also, I’d be interested to know whether writing out code longhand is a useful exercise for you, if you decide to try it!

  4. I used to write out HTML by longhand when I first started, and it went a very long way toward helping me to remember the fundamentals. I took a PHP course in 2008 (I ended up dropping because I was missing out on too much of the election coverage – yes, I know) and we had to do quite a few exercises in class that we wrote out long hand. It worked to an extent, but for whatever reason I couldn’t wrap my brain around PHP that well.

    Zed Shaw (of Learn Python the Hard Way and Learn Ruby the Hard Way) suggests reading code from the bottom up, out loud, including spaces and punctuation. He claims it helps with retention, but I haven’t tried it myself.

  5. Yes, that’s my thinking with longhand or with Zed Shaw’s “read code aloud from the bottom” suggestion. I think that the repetition would help somewhat. I know it has with other markup languages (HTML and Markdown), but with all the variables involved with other programming languages, I wonder whether my brain is plastic enough to retain that much information anymore.

Comments are closed.