Friday, January 11, 2013

Programming vs Writing

It's been a busy three weeks for me. The plant had shutdown on December 17 and restarted on January 2.  For the next days after, I stood guard over the production automation and assisted with several other projects. The plant's running reasonably well and I'm tired. It's going to be a welcome respite for the next two days as I take my restdays.

My job this end of year was to program the automation for one of our processes. I also assisted with the commissioning of several other projects whenever needed. This is something I enjoy doing and it's got me wondering if I should stay in this field or continue taking on writing.

I started programming PLCs (Programmable Logic Controllers) in 1986 when I worked for an instrumentation contractor. When I joined my present company, I learned how to program HMIs (Human Machine Interface) as well. In case you're curious, PLCs are used to control processes (open/close valves, start/stop motors, control temperature/pressure/flow, etc.) while HMI are computers that are connected to PLCs and used by operators to operate the process. In the past, buttons, knobs, and lights were used by operators to control the process but now it's all done with computers.

Programming is a thinking man's job and involves quite a bit of imagination. I don't work with code but it's a specialized programming language called Ladder Programming. In my case, it involves some visualization for me to imagine how things are going to work. Most times I get it right, sometimes I don't. When I don't get what I want to happen, I keep at it until I get it. 'Hope that makes sense to my readers.

Anyway, I've been programming non-stop since December 17 and it's now January 11. Everything's working but I still need to make a few tweaks and add some features to make the programs easy and safe to use. I really enjoy programming because I get a kick out of seeing my creations work, especially when they work well.

Writing, on the other hand, is something new. I can't say I'm good at it though some people's comments have been very encouraging. Sales on my books have been slow but, as Mark Coker ( says, "some books take time to break out." Some may never break out but that's only if you're a terrible writer. A well written book, however, may take months to years before sales pick up.

I guess writing is similar to programming in that it takes imagination and skill. Pour some effort and dedication into doing it and you'll be rewarded. The reward in programming is the satisfaction of seeing the program run error-free. In writing, the reward is seeing the book in print — or in the 'net, as the case may be.