The Value of Forethought: Writing and Coding

By Ryan Druckman

As an amateur programmer, I know that my practice is likely sloppy and inefficient. Without even beginning to delve into redundant logical checks and looping structures, I can assume that the very methods by which I go about coding are improvable. My process? Start with a vague sense of direction and go from there. As I think of the various requirements I try to implement them on the spot and in a linear fashion. If I have to design an algorithm to achieve a certain effect, I’ll just draft it into my code off the top of my head. Until recently I had never really considered that perhaps a little forethought would be a valuable use of time.

As part of my current CSS coursework I am being forced out of my habits. I have to include a summary of my programming procedure, a flowchart of my program, and a summary of how I plan to manage my time with each assignment. This has forced me to plan ahead and lay out a game-plan before I rush into coding. At first I thought this was all an annoyance, but recently it hit me: This is prewriting!

Prewriting! That thing I do for essays has somehow followed me into my CSS coursework. In my writing I never second guess the efficiency of a prewrite; this is particularly true for dastardly writing assignments where the pressure is on and I haven’t had much time with a given prompt.

On days when I can’t seem to figure out how to get started, brainstorming helps give me an idea of all the thoughts I can tackle in my paper. Brainstorming can take on many forms: free writes, bubble maps, or simply asking questions about the prompt. On the other hand, if I have started my paper but find that my writing is disconnected and unfocused, outlining can give me the guidance I need to stay focused on a central question. Outlining can help with a variety of tasks: categorizing my ideas into lists, deciding how to order those ideas, and guiding my ideas towards a conclusion. Regardless of the task at hand, taking time to gather my thoughts, connect my ideas, and plan my approach helps me immensely!

But enough about me; what can prewriting do for you? Whether you find yourself looking at an ominous empty Word document or a train wreck of disoriented ideas, have no fear; a little forethought can always help. Sometimes all it takes for your ideas to fall into place is a change of perspective and prewriting is a great way to prepare for addressing your topic. Just give it a shot! Before you know it your writing will be stronger and more concise. It works for me; it could work for you!

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