How to Get Better at Development and Other Stuff

If I seem like i know what I’m talking about it’s thanks to a lot of trying, messing up, repeating, and sharing that experience.

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I’ve been working with WordPress as my full-time gig for going on 6 years now. That’s not counting the after hours learning, writing, and side projects.

Even with that experience, I’m still timid about putting out content that I feel like I don’t fully comprehend1. A fear that I’ll be found out as not a “real” developer.

A Little Background

I don’t have a technical academic background. My web development skills have been mostly “self-taught”. I say that with quotes because of all the great online teachers writing posts and creating courses I’ve learned from.

But a lot of my development has been more of a learning by doing, failing, re-doing, and making it work2. That doesn’t leave me with a lot of the technical terminology that can leave me feeling like an imposter in a technical conversation.

Try, Learn, Share

This is my go-to process. I’ll try to build something. Hit a roadblock. Learn more in depth about it. Share what I learned to reinforce it and then move onto the next topic.

This came to a culmination Mother’s Day weekend when I gave a presentation at WordCamp St. Louis 2018 on developing blocks in Gutenberg.

Trying ( and probably failing )

Just a few weeks before the speaker submissions were due I talked Gutenberg development at a local WordPress Meetup I help organize.

It did not go well. I was trying to explain concepts I didn’t fully understand to people that didn’t fully understand the concepts leading up to those concepts.

There were lots of blank stares 😐 and me stumbling through answers to questions that day.

And yet a few days later I found myself submitting a talk to WordCamp St. Louis on Gutenberg development.

Learning and Iterating

Out of my 3 topics submitted the Gutenberg topic was the one that was got me selected to speak.

After the initial, “uh oh” moment, I got started researching more in depth. Building some blocks. Focusing on the spots where I had the least understanding coughmodern JavaScriptcough.

Building and reading the code behind other people’s samples was a huge help in bettering my own understanding of Gutenberg development. As is often the case for all my development3.

Sharing

One of the things that has helped me best understand more complicated topics is sharing what I know at meet ups, WordCamps, and on my blog.

With the added benefit of slowly watching my Google Analytics traffic rise.

There’s something to be said for putting a topic into your own words that really helps to pound it into your brain.

Just a few weeks after nursing my self-inflicted wounds from my meetup debacle4. I gave my presentation on Gutenberg development to an auditorium full of WordPressers. Including quite a few that undoubtedly know more than me. And I didn’t make a fool out of myself5.

Doing it all again

I always get this sense that when I’m starting a web development project or learning a new topic I have to get it perfect the first time. But I don’t hit perfection the first, second, third, or even tenth time. I incrementally get better the more I do something.

Even after my presentation I’ve learned more on Gutenberg development as I’ve continued writing posts for this site.

Getting Better

That’s a few hundred words that basically boils down to get better by getting started.

Don’t let the chase for perfection stagnate you. Try something. Screw it up. Learn. Share your experience. And do it again.

I always get this sense that what I’m doing needs to be perfect the first time. And that’s rarely ever the case. Perfection, doesn’t come on the first, second, or even the tenth time.

Perfect is the enemy of good.

– Voltaire6

  1. Most things.
  2. Good enough!
  3. One of my greatest skills is crafting good search queries on Stack Overflow.
  4. People tell me it wasn’t as bad as I say. But people are kind.
  5. Outside of the typical stuttering over words and probably a billion “uhs”. Baby steps.
  6. I had to look that up.