A Writing Lesson Learned From A Shark

This is my April entry for the Insecure Writers’ Support Group.


Supposedly, if a shark stops swimming, it’ll die.

I’m not totally clear on the practicalities of this – does it drown? Does it sink to the bottom of the ocean, to the dark places where weird creatures with luminescent glowy bits live?
But, in cultural terms at least, the shark’s position as a creature that must continue moving or else is second only to it’s position as an evil killer, and devourer of boats that aren’t as big as needed.

Though it can be annoying, I think the same applies to writers.
Writing is a habit, one that needs to be developed into an instinct. The idea of a writer with intense writer’s block is one that’s been done to death in fiction – the writer has six hours before a 50,000 word novel is due in, and is sat in front of a blank Word document.
But just because something’s a cliche doesn’t make it untrue, as much as the desire for freshness may make us wish it does.

In the past month, I’ve written a 4,000 word short story from scratch, set in a supernatural world that I’ve worked out a bit of depth to, and hinted at in the story without being too heavy-handed. (I think so, at least.)
I’ve been writing a weekly column on events in English football’s League One and Two.
I’ve just written an article on the controversial appointment of Paolo di Canio to a high profile managerial position, trying to sort out some slightly messy morality, and find some line of logic through the whole thing.
And I’ve written a few more things, on subjects ranging from English centre backs to The Big Bang Theory, that I hope will go up in various places over the coming days.
All in all, I’ve been slightly busy.

Maybe they have to keep moving so nothing can take the mick out of how ridiculous it looks?
Maybe they have to keep moving so nothing can take the mick out of how ridiculous it looks?

But it’s still not enough.
My instinct, when feeling the buzz of relative achievement, is to sit back, enjoy the glow, relax and enjoy the sense that I’ve just made something that I’m quietly pleased with.
I doubt there’s ever been a great writer who wrote well in one month of their life, then sat back and lived off the glory for the years afterward. The annoying truth is that, after reaching down into ourselves, (or looking out into the world with it’s weirdness and complexity,) we’ve got to do so again.
And again, and again.

It’s a bit of a weird thing to think, after all, I enjoy writing, whether it’s non-fiction, making sense of the world, or fiction, creating a world of my own.
But it can feel kind of exhausting to bend the mind in the necessary ways.
Though I don’t totally agree with it, one of the quotes that keeps coming up as a reward for posting a blog is “I don’t like writing, but I like having written.”
That sense of satisfaction is pretty nice. It can be tempting to sit and enjoy the glow.
In a way, it feels a bit like being an elderly comedian, the type who no longer feels the need to be funny, and can make programmes about their hobbies for ITV.

But if I’m to become a better writer, it’s important that I keep working to develop myself, keep growing.
My ‘achievements’ so far aren’t anywhere near impressive enough to earn me a fame-based pension, but more importantly, I want to be a better writer than I currently am.

I’m not sure what happens to a shark when it stops swimming, but as people, if we stop pushing ourselves, challenging ourselves to develop, our skills regress.
It’s important to keep moving, and vitally, to keep the pen moving across the page.

7 thoughts on “A Writing Lesson Learned From A Shark”

  1. This was very well written, David. I couldn’t agree with you more. As writers we need to exercise our minds just as any athlete exercises their body. We never want to become stagnant.

    IWSG co-host


  2. I like to think of writing as what Dory said in “Finding Nemo” – keep swimming. It’s all we can do.

    Slightly off topic, but as an EPL fan, I’m finding Sunderland’s appointment of Di Canio both hilarious and insane. How long before he gets pissed off and fires off a fascist salute at the Stadium of Light, or, why not, Anfield or Old Trafford?


    1. As far as I can tell, di Canio seems to think of fascism as a community thing, it didn’t really rear it’s head in any practical way while he was at Swindon.

      You’ve more cause to worry about him deciding a star player’s ‘attitude has changed’ and freezing him out because of pre-season performances, something that actually happened at Swindon.


  3. What an excellent analogy with the shark. I love that you are not one of those idiots who go about life saying they would literally die or go crazy if they didn’t write every single moment they possibly can. It’s refreshing. Writing is exhausting indeed and taking a moment to pause and enjoy the glow of something well done can only make you a more complete human being. Sharks also sleep. The need to move is as great as the need to replenish. Keep moving and pushing yourself but also enjoy the moment.

    Great post!


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