What do you look like when you’re working?

I wonder if there’s a mental image people have of programmers that we’re always tapping away at keyboards, clicking, testing, and generally looking busy.

It’s been a long time since I worked in an office full of other programmers, so I’m not sure if that’s just the image I presume people have, or if it’s reality.

It’s certainly not my reality.

My daughter asks me many times a day if I’m working. I might be playing guitar, or staring into space, or spinning a pen, or making circles with my foot… and it’s generally in those moments that I’m working the hardest. Those distracting activities are allowing my mind to relax and visualise more complex scenarios and the bigger picture of how the thing I’m working on will fit together.

It’s in those moments that the solutions come to me.

I’ve worked like that for many years. Back when I was in a room full of programmers, one of them, Stephen, would see when I’d spaced out and he’d wait a few minutes and ask me what I was thinking about. Usually I’d reply, “I’m not sure yet. Something’s coming though.” And it usually did.

Writing this post is another distraction. Right now, my mind is full of dancing database tables, admin interfaces, workflow diagrams… stuff that would be overwhelming if I put it all on a whiteboard in front of me, but in my mind with a distracting conscious task going on, everything starts to fit together.

Perhaps I’m just weird though.