Why This Book? Why Now?
My conviction in the timeless beauty of prose and—just as importantly—its nexus with the rejuvenating qualities of beautiful code has only grown stronger as the years have passed. Having made such a bold statement, an explanation is in order: You must be wondering, after all, what this book is all about.
This is how the book came to take shape, this is really how it happened, and this is why I am sending you, dear Reader—software practitioner or otherwise—a series of letters that make up the book proper: I want to share everything I’ve learned about the beauty that lives at the nexus of code—aka “computer programs“—and prose. (I have gone out of my way to make this book equally accessible to geeks and non-geeks; hence, my allusion a second ago to you, dear Reader, being a “software practitioner or otherwise.”)
Here’s the deal: Over the past two decades, the more code I’ve written up—and I can’t help but think to the memorable phrase that “I write code to understand better what I design”—the more I’ve seen thrown into sharp relief a feedback loop at play, an ineffable loop that has the two (code and prose) informing each other in a virtuous cycle, with sometimes the code leading the charge and at other times the prose.
Put another way, the act of creating computer programs is, first and foremost, an act of creation. If this not be creativity, then I don’t know what is.
Enter prose, which is, to my mind, the flip side of the coin: As a writer, I sit down and engage in a creative act, one that’s every bit as creative as its counterpart in the digital realm. With that, I invite you to place your trust in me by giving me the privilege of serving as your guide: We are going to explore the underreported relationship between code and prose.
On Naming This Book
If the titles of my previous two book—Dispatches from the Software Trenches and Postcards from the Software Island—conjure up images of a roving imagination, you are right on the mark. To keep the traveling metaphor going, I reckoned that a series of letters (presumably sent from a journeyman) would be the thing to do. And thus do I trace the name of this book: Letters to a Software Practitioner.
Let’s Open The Letters…
I hope you’ll find enjoyment in reading these decidedly personal letters; writing them up sure kept me riveted! Oh, I now begin to wonder, will these letters get delivered to you by the prim staff at the dainty post office in the quaint British town of Candleford—of TV series Lark Rise to Candleford fame—or perhaps our letter courier service will turn out to be the stealthy owls from the Harry Potter movies? This I know: These letters were written up just for you, straight from an in-the-trenches software practitioner.
Only for you.