Hey, Where Did My Coding Skills Go?

Today I fired up TextMate to do my first bit of serious PHP coding since my stroke. I’ve been almost entirely XHTML/CSS since getting out of hospital last August, with a little light coding (ASP mostly) since then.

Probably the closest I’ve got to writing any real PHP in 8 months has been learning the basics of WordPress themes from Blog Design Solutions… To be honest, I’ve not had the same drive or determination to “Just Code It” as I once did.

I’ve been reading 37 Signals’ excellent book, Getting Real today. I’m about three quarters of the way through. I doubt I’ve ever said this about a “tech” book before, but it’s a real “page-turner”; Getting Real pulls you in and is real hard to put down once you get started. All the praise you may have heard about this book is justly deserved—it’s essential reading for developers… hell, it should probably be essential reading for anyone who has to work on just about any type of product or in a team.

While I’ve been reading Getting Real, I’ve been feeling like I want to write code again; I want to write something simple, elegant and real. I want to stop thinking about some of the ideas I’ve had over the last few month – no years – and actually do something. So I set-up a development site and database for one such idea, opened TextMate and created a new project.

It hit me like a slap in the face; I’ve forgotten how to do this. It’s like I’m back on square one… like someone sucked most of my programming ability out of my head. I can remember lots of stuff about various PHP functions, syntax and a million myriad details, but actually doing anything with any of it is another matter. I started thinking about the initial, basic class/data structure I would need and it was like the lights were on but nobody was home.

Looking on the bright-side: if I do have to relearn myslef this stuff, it means I’ll be able to do it with a clean slate and Be Real from the very outset…