TITLE: There's No Right Way To Write All Programs AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford DATE: December 27, 2016 8:36 AM DESC: ----- BODY: In the Paris Review's The Art of Fiction No. 183, the interviewer asks Tobias Wolff for some advice. Wolff demurs:
Writers often give advice they don't follow to the letter themselves. And so I tend to receive their commandments warily.
This was refreshing. I also tend to hear advice from successful people with caution. Wolff is willing, however, to share stories about what has worked for him. He just doesn't think what works for him will necessarily work for anyone else. He doesn't even think that what works for him on one story will work for him on the next. Eventually, he sums up his advice with this:
There's no right way to tell all stories, only the right way to tell a particular story.
Wolff follows a few core practices that keep him moving forward every day, but he isn't dogmatic about them. He does whatever he needs to do to get the current story written -- even if it means moving to Italy for several months. Wolfe is taking about short stories and novels, but this sentiment applies to more than writing. It captures what is, for me, the fundamental attitude of agile software developers: There is no right way to write all programs, only a good way to write each particular program. We find that certain programming practices -- taking small steps, writing tests early, refactoring mercilessly, pairing -- apply to most tasks. These practices are so powerful precisely because they give us feedback frequently and help us adjust course quickly. But when conditions change around us, we must be willing to adapt. (Even if that means moving to Italy for several months.) This is what it means to be agile. -----