Tip: Before You Copy-Paste That Next Line of Code....

Growing up playing video games, if you got stuck on a boss or level, you had a couple pre-internet options: 1) Ask a friend or someone at school; 2) Beg your parent to let you call Nintendo Power. Technology has made it so that no only get can you get all that info for free, but you can watch someone play it in real time as welll.

We all get stuck and need help at times-it's actually a sign we're trying something new and we're growing. The problem is when that help, not matter how well intentioned stops me for having my own experience. If I take a game guide and follow it from start to finish and complete the game perfectly, have I learned to play the game, or have I simply learned where to find answers?

The same goes for learning to program. We've all had times where nothing seems to work, and it helps to see how someone else has approached the same problem. But if you're copying someone else's efforts more than you are attempting your own, you're missing on the essence of programming-what's more, you'll run into the same program over and over again. You'll understand where to go for answers, but you won't understand the why-worse yet-you won't know if you're solving your issue, or making it worse.

So what's the alternative? Well, before hitting CTRL-C, take a moment to write down, in plain langauge what you're attempt. Write this a comment in your code.

Next, take each line and try to transform that into you're programming language. Combining your aims with syntax usually makes it easier to spot blockers and solutions.

If that doesn't work, do take inspiration from someone has done it before. The key word here is inspiration. Treat it like a work of art and study it. Why did they label their variables that way? Why did they use that to iterate through a list? And instead of copying, write it out. Use your own variable names. Even though what you've written will look similar, you've taken a conscious to make some part of the code your own, and that will make it easier when you return to it to understand at least what you were attempting.

Places like StackOverflow and GitHub are like video game guides-they can help you get unstuck, and at times it's helpful to see how others have done it. However, be sure that you're doing more than just following instructions, and are taking ownership of your own coding mastery.