Jungle Coder

The musings of a third culture coder and missionary kid

Mechanical and Creative Work

I have a very active mind. As a home schooler, I read around 1000 books (of various lengths) between learning to read and graduating. I also tend to have at least one program/board game/story idea percolating in the back of my mind. I started programming so that I could build a few of those ideas.

The creative process carries a great deal of intrinsic motivation. But there is also a mechanical side to programming that can’t be escaped. The mechanical side of programming is where a program gets its polish, but it can feel a bit gritty and tiresome at points. I find that it happens when performing ports to a familiar technology, or when writing yet another simple* SQL Query (YASSQ).

This can cause problems when I need to do routine programming. Because the work isn’t intrinsically motivating by virtue of being interesting or challenging, I’ve struggled with giving it the attention and care that it deserves, especially when working from home, away from the motivation of colleagues.

I’ve often prayed and asked for prayer on this issue. Recently I saw a partial answer to that. I’ve discovered that I can do the least strenuous parts of programming while listening to podcasts. This struck me as similar to the way that routine math could be done with an radio drama in the background.

I don’t think this will work with all podcasts. Today I was listening to Ravi Zacharias’ various speeches and sermons while working. I don’t think I’d be able to listen to a technical or conversational podcast. Technical podcasts would make it hard for me to maintain a focus on my code, and I’m too much of a listener for the conversational podcast. Sermon podcasts seem to fit in a special spot there.

It’s also something that only applies to routine work. If I’m doing something that requires that creative side of the mind, the podcast has to be turned off (and is turned off promptly). Usually though, the work that I can’t do to a podcast is intrinsically more interesting. Of course, writing (like this post) is something that I can currently only do to either music or silence. Thankfully, I have grown to enjoy it a fair bit, hence this site.

*Or code that seems simple. Details are tricky that way.

Published August 19th, 2013

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Angela Owen

Fun post! I love your creative ways to do things.

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