Just Keep Swimming

Post ImageDory: Hey there, Mr. Grumpy Gills. When life gets you down do you wanna know what you’ve gotta do?

Marlin: No I don’t wanna know.

Dory: Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming. What do we do? We swim, swim.

Ah, were truer words ever spoken? I think Dory deserves a place amongst the great philosophers of the age, right up there with Socrates, Descartes, and George Carlin. “Just keep swimming!” just about sums it up, doesn’t it? And do you know what’s even better? Simply substitute almost any verb for “swimming” and you’ve got a template for life.

Take, for example, a little thing I like to call writer’s block. Ouch. Yeah, you know what I mean. Blank page. Blank head. Fingers not moving . . . except when they stray back to Solitaire. It’s a bad, bad thing, and it happens to everybody at one point or another. Writers great and small all succumb to its icy grip eventually. Most usually get past it, which is why we have seven Harry Potter books. Of course, once in a while, the writer gets stuck forever, which is why we don’t have eight Harry Potter books.

So what does one do? How does one get past this barrier of barriers? I finally learned the trick. At many, many points during my current draft, I’ve hit the wall. You know the wall. Your plot is stuck, you have absolutely no idea what to do next and you really, really can’t play more than two hundred and seventeen games of Solitaire in a row. So what’s left to do?

Just keep writing, just keep writing . . .

No kidding. It sounds silly, but it’s actually started to work for me. Instead of being blocked permanently, I just keep writing. I throw out all the rules, all the plot, all the . . . um, rules, and I write. It’s actually rather liberating. It’s just like the old saying, “There’s nothing like looking if you want to find something.”

It’s likely what gets written doesn’t make it into the final draft of anything. But it doesn’t matter. It might spark something else that does. The whole point is to just keep writing and sort it out later. Trying to sort it all out before the pen hits the paper is just a recipe for a stack of blank paper.

And now we’ve reached the point where I come up a witty ending to my blog post. Unfortunately, I can’t think of anything at the moment. I’m sure it will come to me if I realize that now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their quick brown fox jumping over the lazy jackdaws who love my big sphinx of quartz.

Hmmm . . . on second though, how about this instead:

Solitaire Screenshot

12 Responses to “Just Keep Swimming”

Loquin said
December 8, 2009 at 1:30 am

Man, in this moment you rock so hard. That’s exactly what I needed to be reminded of after a month that kicked my butt and ground my writing to a stand still. You are absolutely right. Or absolutely write. Hmmm…

nic. said
December 8, 2009 at 7:33 am

I’m having trouble with my murdering… perhaps this mantra will help me.


TexasDeb said
December 8, 2009 at 9:03 am

Wow this kind of turns “it is the thought that counts” right on its head, doesn’t it?

If I get what you are saying (and OK, maybe I don’t), you are telling us at least in some cases it is the act, rather than the content, that counts?

Did I just feel a shudder in the Force?

    Charlie said
    December 8, 2009 at 9:29 am

    Basically. If you get to a point where you’re stuck, write something anyway. Even if it has nothing to do with anything. Take your main character, plop him down in your favorite episode of Friends and see what happens. You’re many, many times more likely to think of something worthwhile doing that than doing nothing at all.

TexasDeb said
December 8, 2009 at 9:04 am

PS – Love the seasonal refrigerator, Charlie!

    Charlie said
    December 8, 2009 at 9:29 am

    Yay. Somebody noticed.


Guy Not Selling You A Food Processor said
December 8, 2009 at 11:24 am

This advice works.

Sagan said
December 8, 2009 at 12:36 pm

Woot George Carlin!

Writer’s Block is the WORST. But yeah, just keep writing… I find it also helps to write in a totally different style than what you’re “blocked” with. If it’s a novel I’m struggling with, I’ll write a journalistic piece, or a poem, or something unrelated to the story- it kind of re-energizes the creative juices.

Quix said
December 8, 2009 at 1:08 pm

I find this with running. Running (to a point) makes me want to run more. Getting up in the morning and lacing up my shoes consistently makes me want to do it more often. Even if the idea of running makes me want to throw temper tantrums, if I’m scheduled, I go. And 9 times out of 10, I’ll end the run happy and accomplished. Just the act of starting makes everything ok. Kinda the same thing?

NaNoWriMo made me throw such a tantrum about it at the end I’m giving myself some time to get my act together and really digging in and getting good habits going during Christmas break.

Sandie said
December 8, 2009 at 1:36 pm

Love it!! And I’ll just keep reading, just keep reading…

Biz said
December 8, 2009 at 2:48 pm

Great post Charlie! And I always liked that deck of cards for solitaire – the bats fly!

Joe Spammer said
January 24, 2010 at 2:17 am

The author of http://www.backtothefridge.com has written an excellent article. You have made your point and there is not much to argue about. It is like the following universal truth that you can not argue with: There’s always someone who prefers mustard. Thanks for the info.

[Editor’s note: This bit of spam cracked me up. Thought it was worth approving, once I removed the link back to the spammer’s site.]