How to Get Better at Programming: Lessons from Blogging

Look, I can’t help but write articles in this series. Very rarely do I get a chance to brag about various skills I’ve picked up in my life, and I’ve had a lot of fun doing it. Today, let me brag a little bit about my blogging skills and how they might be useful in programming.

Table of Contents

Blogging Expertise

Blogging was not something I got into until it was already long deemed dead. Whether or not that is true is entirely up to debate, but I didn’t get started until 2016. Back then, I had just graduated with a degree in computer engineering and I was working at a company for the first.

Very early on I realized that I wanted to work for myself, so I decided to get a project in the works with a friend of mine. About six months into that project, we parted ways, and I launched The Renegade Coder. In just a couple of weeks, we’ll hit the 4 year anniversary of that move.

Normally, I wouldn’t consider myself an expert in something like this because I haven’t been doing it very long. Also, I’m self taught. I have no formal writing training, and I’ve just kind of been on that grind for the last couple years.

That said, I have done a lot of writing in four years. As I write this, I have 442 published articles on this site—not to mention another handful in other places. In addition, until this year, I kept a pace of about two posts a week. Lately, I’ve slowed that pace to once a week, but I’m very consistent regardless.

As a result, I think I sit in a relatively experienced realm of expertise, but I still have a lot to learn. Also, because I’m self taught, I think the tips I’ve learned from blogging will help most with folks who are trying to teach themselves programming. Why don’t we dive in?

Lessons From Blogging

To the average person, blogging and coding probably seem like very different fields. However, I think they align in a lot of ways. For example, programming is far more creativity than people like to lead on. In the same breath, blogging is a strategic and logical process. I don’t just write whatever I want; there’s thought that has to go into it. As a result, I think programmers could learn a lot about getting better from blogging. Here are a few of the connections I drew.

Pacing Is the Key To Progress

When it comes to blogging, I think a lot of folks give up pretty early on. For instance, they try to do too much too fast, and they end up burning out. In other words, their pacing is all off. For anyone at this stage, I’d recommend queueing up any posts you have planned on a schedule that you’re comfortable with. For instance, if you write 10 articles in the first week, spread those out over several weeks to save you from burnout.

In addition to saving your own mental health, pacing is very important for a website in general. From a technical standpoint, pacing provides a schedule to various search engine crawlers, so you can guarantee your work is indexed regularly. Practically, pacing provides momentum that allows your site to grow gradually and predictably over time.

I tend to think this idea of pacing can help a lot with your learning in just about any field. That said, because of how taxing programming is on the brain, pacing is especially important. For example, I know a lot of folks recommend doing 100 Days of Code or other similar daily challenges. This can be incredibly tiring over time and eventually burn you out.

Even if you’re really passionate about coding, I’d still recommend setting a comfortable pace for yourself. Don’t try to fill your entire GitHub grid up like a masochist. Your time is best spent finding the balance between resting and learning rather than forcing yourself to get better.

Interest Matters for Long Term Sustainability

Nothing fosters Writers Block more than when you choose uninteresting topics. In the age of search engine optimization, it can be hard to grapple with this reality. After all, content won’t rank unless people are actively searching it up. That said, you’ll never last as a writer if you don’t have interest in your work. Again, you have to strike a balance.

For me, this means regularly pivoting to new topics as they become interesting to me but remaining in my niche the best I can. Hopefully, you see what I mean by this entire series.

Like blogging, programming requires a lot of interest to avoid burnout. Generally, I don’t think people are inherently interested in programming. Typically, they’re more drawn to problem solving, opportunities to help people, and chances to create cool stuff.

As a result, you need to work on projects that interest you. If you’re interested in developing apps, develop apps. If you want to make a video game, make a video game. It can be quite painful early on to work on abstract concepts just because it is the norm. Find the domain that interests you and get right into it. Surely, there are folks like me creating content geared toward beginners in your niche. If not, why not hop on the blogging bandwagon as well?

Creativity Maximizes Outcomes

One of the things I love about blogging is that I can basically use the platform however I’d like. There’s great power in that kind of freedom, so I try to flex it as often as possible. For instance, I’m really enjoying writing this series whether or not it makes it in front of people’s eyes. After all, it’s cool to be able to catalog bits of my life and turn them into helpful tips for others—as well as my future self.

This creativity can lead to a lot of late nights where I jump out of bed to write down a cool idea. Most recently, that idea was this series. That said, I really like my “Roll Your Own Python” series, and I’m sure I’ll come up with another idea that I’ll deem as genius a month from now.

From a programming standpoint, I know creativity can go a long way. In other words, surely you have dreams of things you’d like to try to make, right? Why wait? Programming is an iterative process. Maybe you can get a rough prototype going now and write the whole thing from scratch with your new knowledge later. I know I’ve done this several times. For instance, I tried creating a library app that I could monetize. I never quite got all the way there, but I was able to learn a lot of cool technologies along the way.

I really think programming is modern day magic. If you have an idea, you can probably make it a reality. The key is to start with an idea.

Readability Helps the Reader

Blogging can take many forms. Personally, I tend to use blogging as a form of education. As a result, I want to make my writing as digestible as possible. If people can’t make sense of it, they won’t learn anything. Even worse, they probably won’t return for your help.

There are a lot of ways to work on your readability, such as having folks read your work and give your feedback. That said, a lot can be said about putting in the work by being conscious of your writing. One way you can do that is to consume a lot of other folks’ work. Alternatively, you can do some writing on a rough topic and revisit your own writing later.

The latter technique described above translates almost perfectly to getting better as a programmer (though, they’re both helpful). Trust me. Take a look at the first bit of code you’ve ever written. It’s pretty rough, right? I know mine wasOpens in a new tab.. Now, think about all the ways that you’ve improved. In what ways can you get even better?

Generally, I find readability to be an important skill in any work you do with others. That said, as I’ve said in the past, you really should be working on readability because it impacts your future self. There’s no doubt in my mind that you’ve ran into code you’ve written at some point and immediately cringed. That should be a quick hint to keep working on your communication skills—they should never take a back seat in your code.

What Else Can Programmers Borrow?

Welp, that’s all I have for today! Honorable mentions include some of the following ideas:

  • Platform Choice (e.g., WordPress) Should Align With Your Goals
  • Writing Can Be a Form of Learning (i.e., to teach is to know)
  • Guest Posting == Open Source Contributions

At any rate, for my programmer friends out there, how did I do? Did you pick up any new ways to practice coding? Are you interested in exploring blogging? Were you surprised by any of the connections I made?

For my blogging friends out there, what did I miss? Are there other lessons that you think can transfer over to programming? Do you do anything like this? How else has blogging helped your programming career?

Once again, thanks for stopping by. If you’d like to support the site, I have a list of ways you can do that. There, you’ll find links to Discord, Patreon, and YouTube. Special thanks to David Hopp, our latest Patron! Otherwise, thanks again, and take care!

Jack of All Trades (3 Articles)—Series Navigation

One of the things I’ve learned as an adult is that we’re all whole people. Every single one of us comes to a domain with knowledge and experience in a lot of different areas. As someone who tries to write in a particular niche, I feel like I fail to capture the reality that I’m a whole person as well. As a result, I decided to write the Jack of All Trades series as a compromise.

This series attempts to capture my “whole person” mentality while balancing it with the reality that this is a site about code. In other words, I finally get to talk about my interests while tying them back to ways you can improve your programming! Let’s give it a go.

Jeremy Grifski

Jeremy grew up in a small town where he enjoyed playing soccer and video games, practicing taekwondo, and trading Pokémon cards. Once out of the nest, he pursued a Bachelors in Computer Engineering with a minor in Game Design. After college, he spent about two years writing software for a major engineering company. Then, he earned a master's in Computer Science and Engineering. Today, he pursues a PhD in Engineering Education in order to ultimately land a teaching gig. In his spare time, Jeremy enjoys spending time with his wife, playing Overwatch and Phantasy Star Online 2, practicing trombone, watching Penguins hockey, and traveling the world.

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