What Gray the Duck Taught me About Writing

Ducks on the Lake

My parents live on a lake in Eastern Canada. Each morning at 7 am, my Mom heads down to shore to greet her duck friends. The ducks are always there waiting for her. At first there were only two or three, but now she greets up to ten ducks on some mornings. No matter how many ducks show up at the shore, Gray the duck is always there.

Gray is a large, brave Mallard that has grown comfortable with my mother. Gray was named after our cats, George and Raymond – [G]eorge for his daring spirit and [Ray]mond for his voracious appetite. Unlike the other ducks who wait patiently in the water until Mom scatters the cup of seed for them, Gray marches right up onto shore, often meeting my mother partway up the lawn and following her down to shore.

Mom and Gray the Duck

Mom gives Gray his own little pile of birdseed before moving on to scatter seeds for the rest of the raft of geese (For the record, I had to look ‘raft’ up. Ducks that travel in groups go by one of six names – who knew!).

Now, you’re probably wondering what Gray the brave duck has to do with writing. When my mother called to tell me about Gray, we ended our call by saying something to the effect of, “That just goes to show you what bravery will get you.” This got me thinking about bravery and writing.

[Warning – I’m about to get philosophical here. Bear with me, it’ll only last a minute.]

As a duck, if you spend your time treading water, waiting for seeds to be placed in front of you, you’re going to get a whole lot less birdseed than the duck who marches up on shore and finds his own pile of seed. As a writer, if you spend your time writing away, waiting for someone to notice your work, you’re going to end up with fewer opportunities than the writer who puts themselves out there and goes after what they want.

So, Gray the duck has reminded me that it’s time to take the leap and get my creative writing out there! I’ve been fine tuning a short story that I think I am juuuust about ready to enter in a contest. As such, I’ve also been doing research on writing contests (thankfully, there are a lot of them!). As I get ready to take another leap into the world of writing, I’ll be channelling Gray the duck’s courage.

Have you ever had an experience with nature that inspired you to take the next step with your writing? Do you find inspiration in wildlife? What gives you the courage to take your writing to the next level?


  1. Wonderful post and lovely message.
    Kittens are so cuddly and when I lived with a few…only briefly…it seemed they melted any block I was trying to overcome. They gave me such a relaxed attitude, that my wall of bricks that could be so annoying to a writer…fell with no trouble by their playful and simple ways.


  2. I absolutely agree – that’s a great post!
    DO the contest, please just do it – the worst, that can happen is, that the story will not be published – IN THIS VERY CONTEST. There’s nothing to lose.

    I do get inspiration from wildlife, but rather for short stories, characters and plots – or nature sets me in a certain mood of writing, because it teaches me to look closely at our beautiful planet and all the little things.

    Concerning the-courage-to tak- it-to-the-next-level:
    Submitting my first short story was very much like pulling teeth (does that make sense?) – I KNEW what was going to happen to WHOM, but, somehow, I couldn’t write it down.
    Finally, on the last day of the contest, I sat down and wrote it – by shear FORCE.
    I only managed to proofread it twice, then sent it away.
    Two days later, another writer (already successful) read the story and said: “Yeah, this is quite nice, but it lacks this … and that … And it probably won’t be choosen.”
    Two months later, I got mail – and, surprise, surprise – there it was: My first published short story ever.

    Be courageous, do it – and have a lot of fun with this. ‘Cause it is.

    Many, many greetings (and sorry for the bad English!)
    Julia :D

    • Hi Julie!

      Huge congrats on having your story published! That is an amazing accomplishment!! I love that you wrote it by shear “FORCE”. I think that just might be when we do our best writing. Thank you so much for the advice – I’m definitely going to take it and enter the contest (and continue to remind myself that it’s only one of many contests).

      On a side note, your English is in no way bad (and I’m not just saying that). It’s quite good, actually!

      Thanks so much for dropping by!

  3. Hi Carrie, I just read your post I too have just finished a short story but was really scared about putting it out there. I sent it to a tutor I had last year doing a pre-college course, and she said it was great so I have decided to take the plunge and enter it in a competition. It has been just sitting on my lap top for a long time, and when I read your blog I was excited to know there was someone else out there who was feelling the same way I do. If you know of any writing competition’s would you let me know about them? I am trying to do another story at the moment and I’m getting very frustrated I cant get it right at all it’s getting me very frustrated, but hopefully I will get it done. I hope your story does well. Is this your first story? I love hearing from new writers it’s good to know there are people out there sharing the same fears as myself. Love the story about the ducks it does show we just need the courage to push our way to the top.
    Thank you Carrie for sharing your story

    • Thanks so much for your comment, Ann. One of the best parts about writing blog posts is meeting fellow writers like you!

      I’ve written a few short stories, but only two that I’d really consider complete and polished. I have several others that are in various states of disrepair right now, although I’m not sure if any of them will ever become stories that I’m willing to share with others. I’ve been looking into contests in Canada, but I did a quick google for contests specific to Ireland and came up with a few:

      Fish Publishing Writing Contest
      FirstWriter.com (a database of writing contests)
      Irish Writer’s Centre’s list of competitions

      I’d also check with any writing or author associations in your area. I found most of the contests I have been looking at in a book called, “The Canadian Writer’s Market.” I’m not sure if there’s something equivalent for Ireland, but if there is that would be a great place to start.

      Good luck and keep me posted!


  4. What a powerful lesson from Gray duck. Nature inspires me all the time. If you get still and listen, there is so much to learn.

    It is a risk, but you have to put yourself out there. It’s good to test the waters now and then. (pun intended) Good luck with the contest entries.

    • Ha! I loved your pun, Jacquelin. I’m thankful to Gray the duck for reminding me that it’s important to listen to nature – it’s easy to forget as we rush through our day-to-day lives. Thanks for your comment (and especially your pun :)

  5. I liked your post very much. I agree totally about the fact that everyone, like Grey, should carpe diem, take a chance, walk on the wild side and not be as worried about what might happen. It is far more tragic when nothing happens as we hold ourselves back out of fear of censure or ridicule – I know – brave words from someone who has not published anything – blogging aside, but it is something that I still believe to be true.

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