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What is the Function of a Rubber Duck?

March 01, 2021

As I flipped the calendar over to a new month, I was greeted by a lovely picture of “Dr. Duck” staring back at me. It’s incredible (and terrifying!) to think that we’ve circled back to March again. March is a time for new beginnings, luck, green grass, and windy kite-flying days. It also happens to be my mother’s birth month and my book’s birth month, so I thought I’d ramble a bit about the function of a rubber duck. Sounds completely irrelevant, doesn’t it?

In my brain there are two types of rubber ducks. There is the type that James Veitch used to infuriate his Karen-esque roommates. They are literally made of rubber and are the perfect bath time companion, as long as you have a bathtub. Showers aren’t particularly conducive to the use of a rubber duck. All in all, they are funny little things that squeak and float around. The most impressive rubber ducks that I know of, actually helped to map the ocean currents when an ocean liner filled with them had an accident and a container of the rubber-feathered fiends escaped over the side.

Escaped Ducks


And while I am rather partial to the literal rubber duck, there is something to be said of the metaphorical rubber duck that my brother introduced me to not that long ago. You see, he’s a programmer and a rather good one at that. As a programmer, he is privy to the IT secrets that most people don’t know about such as where the internet comes from, how we tricked rocks into thinking, and the elusive use of the metaphorical rubber duck. I shall now share some of this forbidden knowledge with you.

When a programmer gets stuck on a particular line of code, they will turn to their rubber duck. Generally, for a programmer, it can be a literal rubber duck sitting on their desk. They’ll talk to their anatidaen friend until the solution to the problem becomes clear. The rubber that the duck is made from is particularly useful at bouncing useful ideas back at the programmer. In the end, the line of code gets fixed, and the duck goes back to being an inanimate object.

Well, as soon as I heard about this marvelous strategy, I had to employ it. Unfortunately, I already looked mad enough talking to myself normally, and I didn’t have a bathtub for the rubber duck to reside in when it wasn’t in use. How could I call myself a decent human being if I didn’t have the proper equipment necessary to keep the buoyant drake happy and healthy? No, I had to find a different solution.

bathtub



This is where my mother came in. Unbeknownst to me, she had already been fulfilling this role in different aspects of my life. But I started to talk problems out with her when I came to a writing block in my story. Sometimes she’ll just listen as I parse out the issue myself. Sometimes she’ll bounce different ideas back at me. In any case, soon after talking with her, I generally find my workaround and can get back into the writing game. It’s a marvelous game-changer for any writer.

Now, you might say to yourself “I’ve already got a writing group. What do I need a rubber duck for?” Well, you might be right. You may already have one of these fantastic creatures hiding in plain sight as a writing group. If you are wondering if you have a rubber duck or not, ask yourself these questions:

  1. Does it look like a duck?
  2. Does it quack like a duck?
  3. Does it waddle like a duck?


Or, in other words:

  1. Do they have the time for you to bounce ideas off of them/are they willing to help you?
  2. Do they care about spoilers for your book?
  3. Do you get along with them well enough to take criticism and suggestions from them?


If the answer is yes to all of these questions, then congratulations! You found a duck!

In all honesty though, I think that every author needs to have someone to bounce ideas off of in one way or another. While you may think that writing a book is a solo activity, you are dead wrong. The best books come from careful collaboration, and getting out of your own head every once in a while not only helps your writing, it also helps you to not go mad. Get yourself a rubber duck and quack on.

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