Here are some tips I’ve picked up thus far while learning to code.
Keep It Stupid Simple
Whenever you’re reading something or trying your fingers at some coding, make sure you can explain it to yourself in your mother tongue. Rephrase it in your head or write it down, but if you can’t explain it to yourself or better yet, to someone else, then you probably don’t understand it. Swallow your pride and cut out all the programming lingo that doesn’t make sense and explain it so that in 2 weeks from now when you look back, it’s as clear as day. Whenever you’re reading other people’s code make a copy of it and document it for yourself. This may seem excessive, but it’s worth it. You’re trying to learn something highly sophisticated and as with anything, you have to break things down into understandable bites.
While learning to write source code, you will get stuck. There are times in the life of every programmer I’ve met, heard, or read about where you’re working on something and you just can’t make it do what you want. Move on. Don’t stick with a problem you can’t figure out for too long. If you have googled it, asked other more experienced programmers and you still don’t get it, just move on. Go learn something else, keep moving on in the same book you’re reading now or go for a walk or have a beer. And don’t feel badly about it. Everyone gets stuck and you’re only wasting time sitting and staring at a screen.
Keep a Scratchpad Handy
While reading through an instructional book, watching a screencast tutorial, or browsing through some code, you’ll want to jot down some ideas or make doodles or diagrams of what you’re learning to get a better hold of what you’re learning. Don’t worry about your work on your scratchpad making sense later when you’re in the heat of the moment. If you understand the code, it has fulfilled its purpose.
Find a Pal
Everyone knows having a partner in crime is the way to go. It’s surprising how much this is true when it comes to learning how to code. Somethings that have baffled you despite your best efforts will be simply understood and explained by someone else. No matter your or their level of experience, having a second eye on your code will help you see things differently, help you learn other and better ways of doing things and will better your creative problem solving skills which are so important to code.
Check out meetup.com and search for a group that is in your area and learning your language of choice. Don’t be shy. Just start shaking hands and introducing yourself. Sure, everyone at this meetup will know a million times more than you and you won’t understand what the heck they are saying most of the time, but that will improve. What’s more is that you will have constant inspiration to better your skills, you’ll see that it’s really possible, and you’ll see that all good programmers are still learning every single day. While you’re there, talk to people, ask if they can help you with something you’ve been stuck on, ask them to better explain a concept that you’re struggling with or just say hello and introduce yourself. I’ve found people that code to be a generally friendly bunch that like solving problems and getting stuff done. Those are my type of people.