To a certain extent, coding is something that you never completely forget. Although you may be a little slower after a break, once the problem-solving part of your brain fires up, you will still have the skills and knowledge to do the things you have always done.
However, coding is also a lot like the knowledge of a foreign language.
For example, after a long break, a previously fluent French speaker can still tell you what the gist of a document written in French is, and they can still understand speech that they hear. But when it comes to actually speaking the language, even a fluent speaker can stumble over the correct words after a long time away.
Because speaking French involves remembering the words for everything you want to express. Whereas reading or listening to French gives you clues in the form of reminders (words you had forgotten), context, and flow.
It is the same with programming.
Reading code is easy – even after a long break, your brain can distinguish the patterns and the library calls because they are familiar, they are contextual, and they flow in a logical manner.
But put a blank text editor in front of a programmer after a long lay-off and ask them to actually write a program that (for example) converts binary to decimal, and they may not find it as simple as they expected.
Because there is no context, there are no reminders. All they have is a blank page and their memory. And memory is context dependent, which means that accessing data without any prompts is harder than accessing data that is linked to something external.
The upshot of this is:
If you want to be a great programmer – keep on writing code.
Not reading about code, not debugging code, not thinking about code. You actually need to sit down and write code.
The more you do this, the faster and more knowledgable you will become.
So what do you need to do this weekend?