Let’s get this clear, this is not a rant against anyone, this is just a statement. But you must realize this, it is not easy and this is not a one week fix. Also, I’m not talking about leaving your job and finding a better one, but improving yourself as a developer. If that consequently gets you a better job, be it that way.
The first thing you need to do is decide for yourself that you want to do it. There are lots of 9-5 developers out there that write their amount of code while at work, then clock out and they are done. I assume you are not one of them.
So how do you do it? I don’t know yet. I’m trying to find out just like you are. Writing a blog is a good thing, so you will learn to articulate your thoughts, or so they say. Don’t be discouraged by the lack of topics, or afraid of bad reception, you want people to respond to your work, so you can improve it and be better at it.
Be constructive while appraising someone’s work, maybe it’s the best they have it in them, or maybe it could be a start of a great career and you ruin it with your critic. Talking about that, develop a thick skin, learn a way do weed out non constructive critic, and take the one you get in a best way intended. Not everyone is a bestseller writer, or a computer language creator.
Invest yourself into opensource projects, there are lots of resources on starting out. You can join or even start a local developers or something_users group, something being a language or framework you like and use. But first and foremost, you must be open to learn, every day everything that crosses your path is a chance to learn. I’m not talking about code or tools or even technology in that sense. If you’ve got the time take a look at the Passionate Programmer, it’s a great book by Chad Fowler. He is also posting the chapters free on his blog for people to read. I can’t recommend this book more.
Learn a new programming language, learn a functional programming language, make a mobile app, make a desktop app, make a web app, step out of your comfort zone and take a look how other developers are doing it. Go outside, take a deep breath, exercise, take care of your health. Read another book: The Healthy Programmer, and enjoy your life a bit differently than while sitting in a chair in some cubicle in the middle of nowhere. Do some freelance work, on the side or full time, that will give you the opportunity to try out new technologies, learn how to deal with clients, learn project management, estimating, scheduling and everything you are not doing while just coding 9-5.
The conclusion is, learn every day, learn something different, step out of the box and be yourself, the best you can be. You can leave a dent in the universe, maybe a small one, but it doesn’t matter. Just try and not be a drone.