Stuck in Tutorial Purgatory? How I Finally Got Out of it and How You Can Too

Dan Dyson
Published in
9 min readJun 14, 2019



This is how long it has been since I started learning to code properly.

4 whole years.

You would think that by now I would be quite a whiz when it comes to code.

But the truth is…

I am still a beginner.

I have been stuck in a state which I hear affects many student developers — Tutorial Purgatory.

What is this, you ask?

It is where you try to learn a skill by going from tutorial to tutorial, but then realize that hardly anything you have learnt has actually stuck with you. You really haven’t learnt all that much.

For development, you go through a whole tutorial series and you get all excited to build your own website or application.

You open your IDE and this happens:


You cannot think of anything to write maybe past a basic template. You can barely remember any of the concepts you have learnt; even if you did, you have no idea how any of it fits together.

You feel disappointed and start thinking that maybe this Web Development thing isn’t for you after all/you ‘don’t have the brain’ for it/*insert BS excuse here*.

I was the ultimate slave to this tutorial purgatory. I have been on and off the learning train over the years and each time I would jump back on, I would start a brand new exciting tutorial series that would teach me to code in no time!

I started on CodeAcademy:

Early days… with a nice and totally original code sprawl from The Matrix.

I got a grasp on some very basic HTML and CSS and felt great! But then…

I stopped.

Months later I thought I would start some tracks on JavaScript, Ruby and some Python.

I started to get the grasp of it — and then..

I stopped again.

Fast forward a year and I thought it was time I did some serious learning. I searched around and I signed up for two things — An (excellent) Udemy course (new version here) by Rob Percival and I also signed up for Treehouse.

These were really the building blocks for me getting a very good grasp of HTML and CSS.

Things were going great — and then.

I stopped AGAIN.

A good year or 2 later I started work on a cruise ship around Asia for 8 months. I felt the urge to code once again.

With the absolutely abysmal cruise ship internet, I once again restarted my coding journey. This time with another resource — freeCodeCamp.

This is where my learning REALLY started to kick in. I began to really get into JavaScript and I worked at it everyday.

But it was hard.

There were concepts that I just could not get my head around. I had built a perfect for loop but it just would not work! I got through a lot of the exercises but no matter how many I got through, I felt like nothing really stuck.

A very familiar scene

After I left the ship, only very occasionally did I come back to the exercises. However, it felt like such a chore to go through them. I lost motivation from the frustration of not having any idea on what I was doing.

So after a while — once again…


Finally, I was in the gym one day and I found that my fitness app (no names mentioned 👀) would never remember the weights I did the week before, it would be incredibly slow at times and it would log the wrong exercises.

I had a thought:

What if I made my own fitness app that was minimal and simple and just kept track of what I was doing?

It was at that moment it all came back to me.

That’s all I wanted. ZING! Back came the desire to learn to code.

I found the main reason behind the desire to code. It was a personal thing and it got me straight back on it. I have been learning pretty much daily ever since (with exceptions — I have had some well needed vacation time 🌴).

So How did I get myself out of this tutorial purgatory?

I noticed that over the years, although I stopped, I always came back to learning.

I kept coming back to it because I enjoyed the process of learning to code.

But what has finally kept me learning was that I found the reason why I actually wanted to code in the first place.

Besides Web Development/Software Engineering being one of the best careers you can have, with huge demand and countless work options, and the fact I have always loved technology — I just loved the idea of wanting to build some websites, apps and technologies and having the ability to actually build them.

To build whatever I wanted to.

To enrich my life and make it better by building stuff that I would use on a daily basis.

A simple fitness app where I didn’t have to sift through a huge database to find what I wanted and wait for it to load. A to-do list app that was always on my lock screen. A stupid HTML game about the adventures of my friends.

Sure, there are hundreds and perhaps thousands of apps out there that I could simply download and have a great experience with. I could go buy a game maker and build a game without having to mess with code.

But I wanted it to be MINE. I wanted to build something and customize it exactly how I wanted and be proud of it.

And this was the final big motivator to create a plan and stick to it.

So why do we get stuck in this state of constantly watching tutorials but not actually having the ability to do it?

It’s because tutorials are safe.

Tutorials are like milk and cookies before bed. They are nice and comfortable and you feel secure using them.

But it takes more than milk and cookies to master something.

You see a tutorial series that says it will take you from noob to pro — you get halfway through, lose track, get bored or frustrated then move on to the next big tutorial you can find.

Why don’t we learn effectively this way?

It’s because we don’t throw ourselves in the deep end and try it all out for ourselves. We need to get stuck so we are forced to find our own solutions. Therefore, we don’t get our own grasp on the important concepts and we get lost.

It is natural to want to feel safe — we want to avoid being uncomfortable!

But learning is not easy — it is meant to be uncomfortable because you are pushing yourself to new heights!

There are times you get so frustrated that you just want to quit. Sometimes a piece of code just WILL NOT WORK no matter how many times you have checked it over.

It is a process that takes time. Especially with development.

So if you feel stuck in this state of constantly studying without learning, here are some tips to finally break out:


Some of us come to coding because of the potential career benefits, but sometimes you need a stronger motivator. There was a reason you had an interest in coding — do you want to make your own websites? Do you want to build apps? Do you want to help people by building interfaces and apps in the healthcare sector? Explore your own personal reasons. You may just need to get stuck in and start before you find that out for sure.

The problem is, there are thousands of tutorials out there on how to learn Development — how on earth do you know which one to pick? What concepts should you learn first? What’s the best programming language to learn? This list goes on. In all honesty, technology changes every single day so it’s impossible to learn everything.

Learning this stuff is kinda like osmosis — you just have to absorb it.

So just start somewhere and even if you learn a lot but realize you won’t use it, it doesn’t matter. The concepts in one area can apply the same way in many others so you can take that knowledge and apply it to other areas. This makes learning other stuff easier and everything you learn gradually comes together to make the big picture.


As you saw in my journey in this article — I was always switching between tutorials. I was addicted to that excited feeling that this tutorial or that tutorial would be the ONE that would take me from being a beginner to being amazing. But the truth is, you need to stick with one and really spend time going over concepts. Find one and stick with it to the end!

There are thousands of tutorials out there, but here are some popular ones which I have personally used and would recommend:






This is absolutely crucial. If there is only one thing you take away from this article, let it be this one. Whilst you are learning, you need to build your own little projects using what you have learnt. Some tutorial series have follow along projects you can build — a good practice would be to add an extra component to it that you figure out by yourself. For example — Learning to make HTML forms? Make one yourself and add custom styling. Learning how to make a number guessing game? Try add a timer which only gives you so long to guess. Even if you fail, you would have learnt something. Which brings us to the next point:


This isn’t too hard to do when learning development — you will fail a LOT. When things are going well when you are learning, you sometimes want to put off trying to make something in case you fail. You are afraid you will feel bad about yourself and will feel useless. The truth is, you will try to build sites that end up looking pretty grim. You will make web apps that are just full of bugs. You will make all sorts of things that just don’t work at all. But this is good — because each time you make something, you learn something new, even if you feel like you don’t! So don’t ever take it personally. Every great developer started in this stage of constant frustration — you are not alone and you will get through it!


This is something I always failed miserably at. You have to be consistent to be good at anything. Consistency is easier when you are motivated, so ask yourself — why do I want to learn this? Keep asking why and you will get your answer. Use this as the driving force behind your learning!
Development is hard to learn. Get into the habit of practicing consistently and the results will come. Code every day!


This is also a very important one. Enjoy the process! Enjoy those small rewards where things that didn’t click with you before are clear now. Enjoy the absolutely enlightened feeling of finally getting something to work after trying so hard. Most of all, enjoy building things that interest you and fulfill you! If you enjoy the process, you will learn better!

In conclusion, tutorial purgatory can be pretty paralyzing. By following these tips, I hope you find your own way out of it and start really loving the process of learning.

Happy coding!



Dan Dyson

Professional Drummer, OCD survivor & Blogger at — Travelling the globe pursuing ever-whacky adventures!