Are You a Marlin or a Dory?

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By Allie Pleiter

Hand any writer multiple tasks, and you will find out a lot about their personalities very quickly. Some of us tend to be the kind of people who determinedly hammer at a single, linear task batch until it surrenders. Others of us nimbly shift from one task to another depending on where we see possible progress. How you face a bunch of tasks-because every writer faces far more tasks than just getting the words down on paper-can help you plan.

Whether you write thousands of words at a time or just manage to scribble down a paragraph (my “Chunky Method Handbook” has more on that dynamic), I have found a great model for productivity the beloved Disney/Pixar film Finding Nemo. Ask anyone if he is more of a Marlin or a Dory, and he usually knows. That’s the power of a brilliant story-we can easily see ourselves in the characters.
Chunky Method
Marlin had one and only one goal in the film-finding his son Nemo. Nothing else mattered until that goal was met. All side tasks were distractions, irritations, and detours. Marlin saw his task as a one straight line in a single direction. Marlin is a get-r-done kind of fish. An activator. A goal-focused guy.

Dory, on the other hand, was always open to new adventures. Life was a series of multiple lines heading off in dozens of directions. Short term memory issues aside, Dory thrived on variety, was highly adaptable, and could dig joy out of anywhere. A “just-keep-swimming” encourager, a resilient adventurer, a happy wanderer.

Marlins, for the most part, write in great big chunks. They maintain focus over a long period, they aren’t fond of interruptions, and they are results oriented. Dorys, on the other hand, tend to write in smaller chunks. They work best with a variety of tasks in front of them, interruptions don’t derail them, and they love the process as much as the results (if not more). Many of us are a little bit of both, but most of us tend toward one type or the other.

What do these fishy archetypes have to do with to-do lists? They can guide you in how to batch your tasks. Marlins are going to want to get all of their writing tasks done in large batches-retreats, whole days devoted to writing, several hours locked away in their study, etc. Dorys are happiest if writing tasks come throughout their day or week-every morning before breakfast, in-between loads of laundry, on lunch and coffee breaks, etc. This knowledge helps you know how to fit your chunks into the many demands of your world.

Allie Dory MarlinAuthor and avid knitter Allie Pleiter spends her days working on an average of four books at a time, buying yarn, and avoiding housework. Having published two parenting books and over twenty novels, Allie speaks nationally on The Chunky Method, faith, women’s issues, personal resilience, and writing craft. Visit her website at

Comments 0

  1. I’m a Dory in everything but writing. 🙂 When I’m fast drafting or editing, I write all day, every day and use word counts as goals. Not quite sure how I do it since I’m ADH.

  2. Yes, Patricia, we’re all different. In my “Chunky Method,” you’d be a Big Chunk Dory writer. There are lots of tactics to capitalize on that style–you may be using many of them already! Like Dory says, “just keep swimming…”

  3. Boy, I can be a Marlin when I get the chance, but my life makes me a Dory so much of the time!
    I love your chunky method, and use the ideas in my daily life – – when I can!

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