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5 Tips for Ending Coder's Block

neilberg profile image Neil Berg ・3 min read

Coder's block, the equivalent to writer's block, is a common feeling where developers don't know what to do next.

If you're just learning to code, there's often a daunting feeling of "what should I build?". The so-called "tutorial-hell" is a feeling of not knowing how to apply new skills to a project outside the scope of the tutorial. Or, you may just be looking to have some fun on a side project, but don't know where to start.

Luckily, there are many tricks to help break that feeling of being stuck and instead place you on a happy and inspired coding journey.

Wide eyed excitment

Break through the block and start feeling excited again!

Below are my top 5 tips. Have others? Make sure you drop them in the comments below!

1. Imitate With a Twist

Copying emoji

Source: Unicode/Cosmopolitan

Musicians, artists, chefs, writers, fashion designers, filmmakers, and most other creatively-driven people are constantly viewing, hearing, tasting, and consuming work from their peers. Blending all of these experiences from others with your own interests leads to something original.

Take note of websites, apps, and other digital products you use regularly and see which ones spark you with inspiration.

  • Do you like the design?
  • Are you impressed how data is quickly fetched?
  • Does an animation after a click bring a smile to your face?

Whatever the feature is, try recreating it with your own flair. Start small - try building just that nifty header or that silky-smooth transition. Incrementally build up from there and move on to additional features.

The best part? Once you finish the feature, you'll gain confidence that you can indeed build that awesome piece of a product you love (and show off to potential employers!).

2. Look Beyond the Screen

So often as developers we're literally living and working inside of our computer/phone screens. However, there is so much inspiration to be found outside of these screens.

Maniac Billboard

Netflix and CSS Grid and chill?

Magazines, billboards, album covers, cereal boxes, labels on food products and just about everything has a design that is begging to be translated into code! Try implementing a responsive grid for some of those static designs, and have fun with funky colors and fonts that are often found in print but rarely used in code.

3. Talk to People

Whether on a plane, sitting at a bar, or just hanging out with friends, ask some questions about what new site or app someone would love to have. Sure, most times there is already an app for it, but who cares, build another one!

I want it gifd

"You know how to code?! Can you make this, and that, and this other thing?"

No worries whether it'll be used or not, just treat this like a freelance project where you research what similar products already exist, how they can be improved, and how your code can help solve the problem at hand.

Best case scenario: you develop a useful (maybe profitable) product for someone. Worst case scenario: you have a new portfolio item and maybe even a new friend.

4. Hindsight is 20/20

Look back at a project or piece of code you wrote months ago. No doubt it can be improved with the knowledge and skills you have gained since then. Make some refactors and add some new features to it. Take it in new directions based on a tutorial you just finished or a youtube video/blog post you just read.

Rearview mirror

Looking backwards can move you forward. Source: Lori Ward

5. Contribute to Open Source Code

Sometimes the best plan of action is not starting from scratch on your own, but jumping on existing projects.

Look for tags on Github seeking help and are good first issues to tackle. Attend a local meetup or hack-a-thon and see what projects are ongoing that you can join. Hangout on Dev.to, Twitter, Reddit, and other social media platforms to see what others are publishing and whether you can help them.

Github good first issue

Other developers need you!

Final thoughts

If you're feeling stuck about what to do next, know that you are in good company. Everyone I know has felt this way in the past and occasionally feels it now. Try a few tips above to see if it helps you out and let me know if you have additional ideas for others or me to use in the future!

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