It’s not that one is inherently harder than the other. Writing words is easier for me because I’ve had so many years of practice at it. Even if I didn’t, though, I still think writing code would be more challenging for me. Constructing sentences and scenes, deploying alliteration and cadence, these things come with a lot of wiggle room. I can fudge the math, so to speak, and play fast and loose with some of the rules.
That appeals to me, which makes me wonder if there isn’t a more adventurous, anti-authority rebel hiding deep down in my secret heart of hearts.
That wiggle room doesn’t exist in coding. There are almost always multiple paths to a solution, so there’s a little room for style, but you can’t fudge the math. The rules are absolute. Forget a punctuation mark, use the wrong kind of bracket, or forget to declare a variable and the whole thing implodes in an epic fail bomb. Do not pass go. Do not enjoy a working algorithm.
That said, I suspect it’s probably good for my writing to work in a system that is so unforgiving. Having to stay that conscious of the rules in coding has a bleed through effect. I’m simply more conscious of grammar rules and the rules of good writing. I’m also more conscious of the rules that I never really learned. I cannot, to this day, explain pluperfect tense. I’d be willing to bet that I use it in my writing, though.
(Side note: I looked up pluperfect tense, and I do use it in my writing. Most writers do.)
I think the bigger point here, and one I’ve made before, is that writing benefits from new experiences in obvious and subtle ways. That heightened consciousness of rules is a relatively subtle, but very helpful, benefit of my coding experience. The more obvious benefit is that I can now include real-to-life scenes about coding in my fiction.
I probably won’t, except in the most abstract ways, because coding is a lot like writing. It’s someone tapping away at a keyboard, which is difficult to make sound interesting on the page. What I can do now is get the emotional tenor right. I can talk sensibly about a novice coder’s emotional experience. (It’s mostly rage, punctuated by brief moments of relief and happiness bordering on hysteria.) As a writer, that information is worth its weight in gold.