How I went from zero to San Francisco software engineer in 12 months
Sean Smith

Your hand written paper code photo was heavenly to behold. Not so much because of the code itself as the process. I can’t recommend enough coding with pencil and paper (or an iPad Pro).

While I would never work for any company that required answering questions about being stuck in a blender or required coding arbitrary things on a whiteboard rather than looking at my actual body of work and professional references, I do like the idea of coding on paper. In fact, since the very beginning (building an ISP and Nike’s first Intranet web portal) I remember having always done my best code on paper first. I love having an iPad Pro now to really hash out the key components of the APIs.

I don’t know where I read it, but one author suggested having his kids sketch something random when having trouble with something completely unrelated. The act of sketching and writing by hand apparently engages the brain in a way that produces chemicals causing it to work better, or at least differently.

I have experienced this first hand. Sometimes typing in a terminal promotes a hyper-focus on what is right there rather than a big-picture view. I wonder if this is why so many programmers — specifically—have trouble with whiteboard presentations in interviews. Perhaps those brain muscles are underworked. Perhaps they would excel doing the same task using the tools they know and use, which is a better measure of their potential productivity and contribution than forcing them out of their comfort zone in a stressful interview.

Another thing about stress, that same article (damned if I can remember it), also explained that the reason when you are late that everything goes horribly is because the stress is producing chemicals in your brain that literally shut down cognitive abilities, which is why you forget your keys, then to lock the door, and trip on the curb headed to the car. The author suggested to physically counter the effects of these stress chemicals on the brain you can engage in sketching and other, I suppose, dopamine producers. Personally I think this is why I code so well with the right music on—sometimes even singing away while tapping out blocks of Go.