Stuck? Consider the “Dora” Approach to Writing


Over the years, it’s my privilege to rub shoulders with many creative people that I have learned from. One of my recent colleagues was Kyle Portbury, filmmaker and scriptwriter who shares an Emmy win with me that we won a year ago today.

One of the stories he tells is of a famous scriptwriter–whose name I can’t remember just now–who used to write scripts. When he got to parts where he struggled to fill in parts he would write things like “something exciting happens here.”

The whole point is, you shouldn’t let stuff slow you down when you’re writing. Like Dora in “Finding Nemo,” you need to “just keep swimming, swimming, swimming.”

I say this because I’m in the middle of National Novel Writing Month, and my writing isn’t going so swimmingly at present. It seems like every time I turn around, I find myself in a situation where I am writing about something I don’t know adequately about. One day I was writing about segregation on the Union Pacific Railroad in the 1920s, the next day I was writing about how to graft walnut trees, and the next about the school systems in the Los Gatos/Saratoga School District in California. I’m finding that writing a historical novel is a major challenge, which of course I relish, but it slows my writing way down.

But I have to remind myself of Dora: “Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming…”

And that scriptwriter…”something exciting happens here.”

Maybe I can fill up a chapter or two with phrases like that. Hmm.