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I'm stuck, haven't gotten any better at programming in months

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NOTE: this post took quite a turn as I was writing it. The post itself is somewhat a reflection of the problem I'm posting about. Please read to the end, if you have the patience to read through my huge rambling post you'll at least be rewarded with an entertaining account of how messed up I am.




I'm making this post because I'm frustrated with my lack of improvement when it comes to programming(and everything else, but that's another story) lately. I've been coding for probably about 2-3 years, inconsistently, but have learned all the basics and feel pretty comfortable with it. I can make simple 2d games and have been doing some small $500 or less freelance jobs to bring in some extra money, most of them are just simple android apps or games. When I first started programming I learned pretty rapidly and enjoyed being able to sit down and teach myself how to do something interesting and new that I couldn't do before. I always had something that I knew I wanted to learn next even when I was still working on the thing before it and learning came naturally. 



For the last few months however, all my time spent programming has been wasted on many different projects that I ended up throwing away for various reasons. At first it was because I wasn't good at OOP and my code would quickly become a nightmare to work with, but that isn't as bad of a problem now as good(relatively) code architecture is one of the very few things I have learned lately. Other projects where thrown away simply because I got tired of the idea or because I abandoned them for my next new exciting idea. I probably have about 5 different game projects that are less than half done and that I have no interest in anymore. These abandoned projects, and maybe a better grasp of OOP and the LibGDX library(my favorite to use since I focus on android/desktop game development), are all that I have to show for the last 4-5 months of programming. In the 4-5 months before that I went from making pong using Swing and awt to basically the point where I'm at now, where I feel comfortable with each individual aspect of 2d game development and with several different libraries and could theoretically program any 2d game that doesn't involve anything overly complicated like difficult ai or graphical effects. And even those things I am comfortable enough that I could pick it up on the go if I needed to have it in my game.



Typing this out I'm starting to realize my problem may be more with just getting things done, and being able to see the results of my progress, rather than with being able to make progress at all. I'm still unhappy with my rate of progress though.


The last month I hardly did any programming at all. I tried to write a game for the PUTT contest and was going to use it as a project to learn how to implement Entity-Component Systems, but after I got the basic framework done I just lost the ability to even read the code. I'd sit down to work and open up eclipse but I'd just stare at my code, unable to focus enough to comprehend my own code and add onto it. The inability to focus is more of a motivation thing, not an actual attention deficit, but I am still unable to overcome it with all my willpower. Nor can I force myself to work on something else or start a new project. I just don't have the motivation to want to do it, or the willpower to make myself do it even though I don't want to. I've had problems with motivation like this my whole life, even to the point of failing 9th grade with straight F's despite A's and B's on my finals because I didn't do homework or classwork and would sometimes even sleep through tests.



Sorry this post is kind of all over the place, I didn't have a clear idea of where I was going with it when I started. I guess I'm looking for some help with my motivation problem, specifically with programming but general advice would be helpful as well as this is a problem that effects me in all aspects of life. The difference between me and and an average lazy person is that most people, regardless of how lazy they are, are able to sit down and force themselves to do something if they know they NEED to do it. I just can't consciously override my decision to sit there and browse the internet and waste time. Most normal people reading this probably won't quite know what I mean, and it's hard to explain. The best way I can explain it is that I consciously know what I want and need to do, and understand that it's going to take effort and I'll have to spend time doing things I don't want to do, I totally comprehend that and definitely think the reward is worth the effort I know I'll have to put in, but when it comes time to actually put in the effort I freeze. I struggle against myself in my own head and almost always lose. It wouldn't be inaccurate to say it feels as if there is another me in my head that I fight against for control of my actions, and the other me always forces me to submit.


Okay this post is long-winded and unorganized enough, I'm just asking for any kind of help or advice that anyone can offer. I have used all of the tools and methods I can think of to overcome this but I can't and it's effecting me greatly. I may just be really fuckin lazy and this is a big rationalization, but I genuinely feel powerless against this issue and like I've already tried everything I can, ready to give up.


other info that may be relevant:

I'm 21 years old


I'm Attending community college, I always end up dropping most my classes before the drop date though, because by the drop date I'm usually already quite far behind on my work. This semester was the worst and I dropped all of my classes, because I had a very long sickness I new I was going to have to deal with and was already having enough trouble keeping up(see below). I've gotten A's in all the classes I have completed but have never done more than 2 classes in one semester. And only completed math and computer science classes.


I'm a recently recovered opiate addict, over a year ago I quit my 2-year heroin addiction and put myself on suboxone maintenance. I quit that cold turkey at the beginning of this school year(month or 2 ago). I decided I wanted to stop being lazy and underacheiving and for some reason thought that drugs were causing my problems, even they they were present before I started using them. Since quitting I have been much worse, possibly due to PAWS(post-acute withdrawal syndrome, a mild form of withdrawal following regular withdrawal. it lasts 6+ months after cessation of opiate use while your brain adjusts to creating it's own endorphines(endorphine literally means endogenous morphine) instead of getting it's supply artificially) but I don't think my habit wasn't big enough to cause such serious PAWS. And I don't have time to wait for it to be over to start doing anything.


I'm most likely bipolar and have social anxiety, although I'm getting much better with the latter. I was diagnosed bipolar 2 but medication made me literally go insane. Also diagnosed OCD but I really just don't have OCD. I feel I relate much better to people with Aspergers than normal people but not sure if I actually have it, probably not. I'm definitely pretty severely depressed, the numb kind of depression not the sad kind.


Okay now that you know how F'd up I am does anyone have any suggestions? Sorry if any of this was inappropriate or if I'm too off topic, feel free to change/delete. I just didn't know what to do or who else to ask, and you guys seem like a smart bunch :).



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1) Don't get too worked up about not being immediately successful. Long term stress isn't productive and will damage you. It really takes *a lot* of time to become a good programmer AND have someone you want to work for recognize it, if you're unconnected. I was the top 5% of programmers in my university classes, yet I it took some time before I got a good foothold in the labor market after aborting my studies. (In turn caused by my preference for doing programming rather than theoretical university assignments or studying for exams. Will finish my degree shortly in parallel with work.) Similarly, I spent some time doing Internet jobs (always receiving the highest grade by clients and reaching 0.1% best in world rankings), but honestly it didn't work out financially from where I live due to high costs of living. That in turn caused enormous stress as well.


2) I've never done drugs (unless coke i.e. Coca Cola counts, which I was drinking way too much of for a period). Can't give you any advice on this subject thus, other than the obvious "don't do it". The mind doesn't always take rational paths however.


3) Social anxiety is something I have but it gets better when I get out often among people - having a workplace helps. It has also improved massively with age, I'm very different now at 27 than I was at 21. Can't say whether that will apply to you obviously, but there might be hope. A problem with college is that it's possible to be very anonymous in some places; that's not possible in a small company's office.


4) Fix your education or get out and work for a bit, IMO. It just costs too much to stay inside college failing courses (easy to say in retrospect, it's hard to see it while you're there and feel you have an obligation to continue studying, ultimately I had to break up with all the expectations that had been laid upon me - even by myself). The quicker you can become honest with yourself about what you're really doing the quicker you will feel you're in control of your life.


This post risks being slightly rambling as well and unrelated to the thread title specifically I realize, but that's what you get with the original post. smile.png Overall my life has vastly improved since I was 21, and I felt I should share that optimistic outlook with you.

Edited by Petter Hansson

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First off:


Since quitting I have been much worse, possibly due to PAWS


You are not qualified to diagnose yourself with anything, and your proximity to the issue makes you an even less reliable judge of your own condition. Congratulations on managing to abstain on your own, it's something most people can't do at all. That alone says a lot about your willpower and ability to overcome your own issues. But see a doctor or rehab specialist as soon as is feasible. NOTHING is as important as your sobriety. There is no reason not to utilize every tool and aid available to you right from the start.


Most normal people reading this probably won't quite know what I mean, and it's hard to explain. The best way I can explain it is that I consciously know what I want and need to do, and understand that it's going to take effort and I'll have to spend time doing things I don't want to do, I totally comprehend that and definitely think the reward is worth the effort I know I'll have to put in, but when it comes time to actually put in the effort I freeze. I struggle against myself in my own head and almost always lose. It wouldn't be inaccurate to say it feels as if there is another me in my head that I fight against for control of my actions, and the other me always forces me to submit.


I'll preface this by saying that I won't claim I know exactly what you're describing. If you can break a chemical addiction, you can handle this. But by defining the problem as one that you inherently lose, it's one that you'll never beat. I don't doubt that there are strategies you can deploy that will help you overcome this sort of thing, but I can't give much more specific advice because the only detail about the problem that I have is your assertion that it's unbeatable. Well, if you're right, then the problem is insurmountable and by definition you will never be able to deal with it. However, I think that you're wrong and that you can deal with it. Even so, you won't be able to do so until you can at least stop defining it as insurmountable.


With that out of the way, I'm sure that you don't need me to point out that this sounds exactly like the depressive stage of bipolar disorder. Exactly like it. It's unfortunate (though not uncommon) that you had a bad experience with the previous medication. But there is more than just that one out there, and a doctor can help you find one that has minimal (or at least manageable) side effects. If you choose to go without medication, then you'll have to try to ride out the depressive phase and hope that you can handle a manic phase, if and when one occurs. I'm a little confused when you say that you are "most likely bipolar", as a doctor gave you medication before strongly suggests that he or she formally diagnosed you, but no matter what the situation it sounds like this is something to bring to a doctor again.


And I don't have time to wait for it to be over to start doing anything.


From what you're describing, there's no passive piece to your current situation. Don't just wait and assume that stuff will get better on its own, especially with the specifics that you've mentioned.



Now, finally, I'll say that lack of motivation to do programming on your own as a hobby isn't at all unusual. I know that I get it from time to time, because there are far more relaxing ways to spend what little free time I have these days than engaging in a complicated and very cerebral activity. I know other people on this site go through similar phases as well. If that's all it is for you, then it's nothing much to worry about. Based on the stuff you described above, I wouldn't just assume that it's standard lack of motivation.

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From what you said about your history, it sounds like you're accustomed to navigating according to your feelings, which will usually end up leading you to a place where you don't feel too great. The time you spent on your addiction was not simply away time in your development. It was actively reinforcing destructive behavior patterns, and the core of that is taking the 'quick fix'. I'm sure you've realized by now that's a way of cheating yourself out of a more fulfilling life, but you need to decide whether or not you're going to overthrow that underlying pattern and start moving forward from where you were when you started with the heroin. It's not a nice thought, but again I'm sure you've figured it out: the drugs are used to cover over other problems. This is the next problem you face. The solution is self-discipline, which isn't something that can be taught. You just have to roll up your sleeves and conquer both yourself and your environment in order to start building successes.


That doesn't mean just clenching your butthole and charging in head-first, either. That means using your head and managing your life responsibly. If you're not hooked up with a support network, get hooked up. If you don't have a medical professional helping with your recovery, get one. Make good decisions and you'll be much more likely to get good results. There's no quick cash-out for being responsible. There's the long term investment of living well, which pays in dividends.


Suggested reading: The Road Less Travelled

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I've been coding for probably about 2-3 years, inconsistently,


That is the source of your problem right there.  The solution, since you lack some motivation and direction, is to increase your desire to work hard almost every day on coding and stick with a course or other plan which has been ready made for people like you. 


Don't feel too bad, because this is very common for people to go thru a time in their life when their chosen occupation lacks their self-discipline. (Discipline really means training and not punishment.)


I recommend that you find a ready made plan somewhere to progress in coding.  That might be a book, a long online video tutorial, work with game dev team project using a certain game engine, school course - whatever makes you stay on course and pace yourself.


Let's keep things as simple and clear as possible.  You have the choice to get motivated and on a plan.  Just stick with it!

Edited by 3Ddreamer

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Wow. I feel like I just read a post about myself! I also loose interest really fast in the same way you do. If I don't see results as soon as possible I will scrap everything. 


I wonder, do you plan your projects to the end? If you plan first you will be able to scrap the project before you even start. hehe. 


I have a suggestion. I once tried to make a feature film using the Sims 2 game (In over my head), so I decided to make some Motivation Shots. First I worked on the intro to the film and made it really captivating. Then I worked one scene I thought would be really cool, and made it really good also. Then I got to a part that was just impossible for me to do without real people. And that is where I began to break down. And the project didn't get finished. 


Even when I have a lot of motivation, all it takes is a little demotivation to discourage me. I have these big ideas, but thing is, I don't have all the knowledge, or patience to learn the knowledge, to implement them. I overwhelm myself.


I wonder, do you have this same issue also?


What you should create for each project are MOTIVATORS. And it doesn't help to have friends who are not motivators (good ones that actually motivate you). You kinda have to set yourself up on purpose. For instance, if you have a smoking problem, get rid of your friends who smoke, destroy all of your cigarettes (if you keep even one, you loose already. Don't throw them in the trash where they can be retrieved.) Ride your car down to "E" so that the only place you have gas enough to go to is an important place, like work. hahaha.


This is sorta extreme, and chances are you will loose on the consistency part.


I wonder, do you have a consistency issue also?


After I cry and complain about my failed life, I just think, ''ARGHHH Whatever!" Then I go at it full steam!


Take care.    

Edited by Tutorial Doctor

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I won't write a huge post, I'll get to the point:


Say that you have A project, you're halfway through and you get an awesome idea for B project. B project seems so cool, and A project is a mess right now, so it is very, very tempting to switch over and left A project unfinished.


Think of it as if you had to finish A project:


Inevitably your interest in A will drop somewhere along the road, so your motivation will switch from "A project is so cool I want to finish it!" to "B project is so cool, I must finish A project so I can start working on B!".


Thus you transform your motivation to drop A for B into motivation to finish it as soon as you can so you can start working on B.


Hopefully you'll manage to finish more projects before starting with the following ones that way.

Edited by TheChubu

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Problem with your code and everything else can be seen in your post. Midway through the post, you change your mind, yet you fail to revisit the original thread.

To most of us, not all of this post is relevant, sure, the thought process was necessary for you to actually word it properly, but most people would've pressed backspace on the top paragraph and start rewriting it instead of apologizing along the way and adding a disclaimer at the top.


Motivation doesn't come easy, and the one way I find to overcome it is to stick to the plan (code 5+ times per week, meaning I almost code daily). This keeps me fresh, and into what I'm doing. I also have a list of items I can cross off (using Trello, but any method will do, including pen and paper).

You need to motivate yourself, and this goes through showing yourself you get things done. You description above attests that you've done a lot, so there's progress it, but perhaps you're not recognizing it by lack of indicators. A TODO list really helps, try it. It is self-fulfilling.

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