This is a quote I like:
The really good programmers spend a lot of time programming. I haven't seen very good programmers who don't spend a lot of time programming. If I don't program for two or three days, I need to do it. And you get better at it—you get quicker at it. The side effect of writing all this other stuff is that when you get to doing ordinary problems, you can do them very quickly.
This jibes with what I've seen over the years. Really good programmers don't treat coding as a nine-to-five job. It's something they want to do whether they are being paid for it or not.
A very easy way to weed out bad candidates when interviewing is to ask them about their personal programming projects. If they don't have any, then I'm pretty sure I don't want to work with them.
In this respect, programming is little different from other creative pursuits. You become a good writer by writing a lot; you become a good sculptor by sculpting a lot; you become a good musician by playing music a lot.
So go out there and write some code. That's what I'm about to do.