Dolphins! Leaping! Like…Creative Projects?


I had this crazy idea.

It came to me in a flash. It was really more of a syllogism. Like this:

  • Leaping dolphins are to the Deep Blue Sea as…
  • Creative Projects are to a viable Creative Process.

I’ll explain. A lot of the time, you don’t see the dolphins. They’re there but you just don’t see them. They’re all swimming around underneath the teeming surface, zooming after krill or whatever, grinning their crooked dolphin grins. Maybe they play a prank or three on some sharks. You know. Just dolphin stuff.

But a dolphin’s gotta breathe, so periodically he breaks the surface.

Sometimes he just sort of bobs up, takes a big gulp of air, and goes back down into the weightless, undulating, liquid world in which he was born and where he is always and forevermore most comfortable.

Sometimes, though, he takes a different approach. Sometimes he starts from way down in the coolest depths, gets up an enormous head of steam, and bursts forth from the water like a shot. And he spins in the air and he laughs and he says, “Hello, Great Wide World, here I am!”

Sometimes that happens and no one’s around to see it. Maybe just some other dolphins. A stray gull.

Sometimes that happens and there’s folks around. With cameras! And they put it up on the YouTube.

Here’s the point:

You can’t have cool dolphins leaping up out of the water if there ain’t no water. Like. Lots of it.

What if the ocean was just a big, old tub-o-dolphins? No leaping, that’s for sure. Pretty soon, no dolphins. At least not living, breathing ones. And the smell (eww)…

The ocean comes first (and foremost). Then come the dolphins. Dolphins that only occasionally leap. Mostly they hang out in the ocean, eat, and make baby dolphins. And of course they raise said babies up to be big dolphins — that might someday, occasionally, leap.

(“No but seriously: I have no idea what you’re talking about.”)

Great stories, poems, essays, novels are tantamount to those leaping dolphins.Your creative process — the self-directed reading, the noticing-and-documenting, the generation of lots of words that never see the light of day — that’s your fathoms-deep (and also mostly unfathomable) ocean.

Also: stories, poems, essays, novels — they kinda-sorta procreate too. The more of them you make, the more you can make. And the more likely one (or some) of them is to decide to leap.

Also²: kind of like we were talking about with Mr. Slatton on Thursday, not all great stories, poems, essays, novels, songs, bands, etc, get noticed. Like those dolphins, they leap up for the sake of leaping alone.

But mostly the point is this:

  • If you want leaping dolphins, the best thing you can do is make sure you’ve got a deep, healthy, thriving ocean.


(Here’s a rhetorical question for you: does that make ASFA something akin to SeaWorld? Hmm. All things considered, I’d much rather it was a thriving little estuary in the South Pacific…)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s