Getting Unstuck: The Rubber Duck


I’ve been sailing along through NaNoWriMo so easily up until now, it was inevitable that I would hit a wall, a day where making my word count felt like a chore and a hassle.  My well was dry, my brain was empty, and I knew what needed to happen to get me from Point A to Point B, but not how it had to happen.

Behold the Rubber Duck.

I’m not above co-opting problem-solving methods from disciplines outside of writing.  And “rubber-duck debugging” is a method for code engineers to find the problems in their code by explaining precisely what they’re attempting to do, line by line, to a rubber duck.

At some point during the explanation, the engineer realizes where his mistake lies, so he can fix it.

Now, I don’t actually have a rubber duck on my desk, I have Groot and BMO.  They’re both good listeners, as it happens.

When you’re writing a scene, and you know something needs to happen, but not what; or you know what needs to happen, but not how; or you know how it needs to happen, but not why…well, try explaining it to the duck.

Once you hear yourself reason it out, you’ll either find the flaw in your thinking that was tripping you up, or you’ll end up brainstorming your way right out of your block.

Or you’ll feel like a fool, but at least, only the duck will know.


3 thoughts on “Getting Unstuck: The Rubber Duck

  1. I literally want to buy a rubber duck now. I know that’s beside the point. Maybe I can substitute my minion Dave for the rubber duck? He is made of rubber after all. Bonus, he talks if you squeeze him. Perfect debugging companion I say..


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