You can tell when I'm really deep into my work, writing code that is more than just boiler plate, that has something new and unique, a special approach or optimization. But don't look at the screen, you won't necessarily see it there, unless you are good at scouring over thousands of lines at a glance. The real clue to my grand achievements is sitting right beside me, on the table next to the keyboard. Its not a half dozen empty cans of soda or any other stereotypical artifact of geekdom; it's just a pad of paper and some notes, things I jot down as I work. However, don't try to read this stuff either, it won't make any sense to anyone except me, and I'm still uncertain about it myself.
You see, when I get busy the right side of my brain start cranking with my left. As much as I use the text editor and the act of programming itself as a surrogate brain, a method to process and think things through, I also use that paper. My hands get equal time with the pen. Every now and then I take a moments break from the key tapping and switch from digital back into analog. I pick up the pen and let loose on the page, drawing doodles.
That's right, just like an adolescent sitting in a class room ignoring the teacher droning on and on, I allow my mind to drift into a world of swirling lines, hatch marks and funny faced fiends. After a full day of work I might have many of these pages, full of designs, random though intriguing. And, yes, mixed in with all the chicken scratches are words as well, big and small, block letters and script, fragments of thoughts, glimpses of notions still pulsing through my brain from my recent digital foray. And other things too, adjectives, verbs, explicative and just plain crazy talk that might get me fired if I had typed any of it in email.
Luckily, it was only on paper.
Sometimes I think that one day having a tablet PC will either be my salvation or the quick end to a lucrative career.