A screen without error messages to a programmer is as pricelesss as the thrill of running one's first program. It can be a moment of accomplishment, exhilaration, and perhaps euphoria. However, it can also be a reflection of how many hours you spent trying to solve a simple problem that really would only have taken you 10 minutes.
I recall the first semester of my freshman year in CS 312, the beginning progrmaming class that the majority of all UTCS students must take or place out of. My prior experience of computer science was only a year of java programming in high school, and I was determined to show my mastery of loops, classes, and the ever so tedious yet powerful recursion. To do so, I did what any student is advised to do...attend office hours. I would attend every week and bombard my professor with questions and obstacles I had encountered on various assignments. If there was a frequent rewards program for attending office hours, I would have been a platinum member. My professor took note of my attendance, but was more concerned on how concentrated I was on the assignments than the questions I was asking. He knew I was the type to drill drill drill until I finally got the answer. One day he took me aside and said, "Peter, its okay to go take a walk...relieve yourself from the stress of your code."
He explained that if I went and took a break from my project, it would give me some time to reflect and clear my mind of the troubles of debugging. His poetic imagery was so convincing, that my mind was set that if I take a break and go back to my program, it would work!
So I took his advice, and indeed, it was a walk to remember.
Now, I am not referering my experieinces to the 2002 cheesy "rom-com" staring Mandy Moore. My adventure around campus sprawled from the niche passionate student organizations tabling in the west mall to the highly caffeninated CS students of the old gloomy Painter Hall 5th floor. It was a time to reflect, ponder, and clear the mind of code and appreciate the beauty of what is the fourty acres. Upon returning to my project, I sat down and within 10 minutes I was able to spot and fix the problem I had been dwelling on for hours before. The notion of taking a break and really just appreciating the campus around me proved to signifcantly improve the quality of work.
One may ask...How can I take a break to admire the campus around me when my only view fron the 3rd floor lab is Welch Hall?
Luckily for us in the UTCS community, we have the pleasure of admiring the beautiful and highly discussed works of Sol LeWitt in our front yard and atrium. As LeWitt took pride in his 3-D structures, for a UTCS student it is can be source of pride as we possess one of his more cherished works. You may call the Circle With Towers as you please be it a "modern stonehenge", "giant barbequeue pit", or "new age jungle gym," however, you cannot deny the fact tht the UT Landmark has provoked a discussion for a great many around campus.
So, when you're stuck in a rut, go take a break! It's good for you. Whether it's a run at Gregory, dinner with a friend, or a time for admiration of post-modern art, the quality of your work will improve greatly! As a personal recommendation, I highly advise you to see the newest UT Landmark in the Student Activities Center, the James Turrell Skyspace, where one can find an unobstructed view of the sky. Who knows maybe you'll "dream in code," get that A on that assignment, and truly have walk to remember away from GDC.