Thursday, May 05, 2011

Life Lessons From Dogs

Anyone who knows me knows I have dogs. Several dogs. Just one short of too many dogs. I have big dogs, little dogs, shy dogs, and one very mean dog. I'm channeling Dr. Seuss here. Sheesh! Okay, so you get the picture. I have dogs.

People who don't like dogs often ask why I have dogs and why so many. They ask what purpose they serve. (As if everything in life has to have a purpose. My pictures of Hugh Jackman (shirtless as Wolverine) or Gerard Butler (300 anyone) serve no useful purpose, but I LIKE them. So there.

My dogs are actually quite useful. They serve as burglar alarm, door bell, foot warmer, entertainment, exercise equipment and reality check. Hard to get too full of yourself when you are scooping dog poop or wrestling a sixty-five pound basset hound into a tub for his bath.

And I have learned some valuable life lessons from my dogs, lessons easily applicable to our lives as writers. Here are just a few.

Lesson One : Jump the fence.

The road to publication is full of all sorts of fences set up by other
writers, our own heads, editors, agents, contest judges, and just
every day life. You can't let that stop you. Each time you come to a
fence climb it, chew through the wire, tunnel under it, brace yourself
into a corner and crab walk up it (my 85 pound Golden Retriever crossed
with a Clydesdale did this!) but do not let that fence get in the way
of where you want to go.

Lesson Two : Cause some mayhem. It gets people's attention.
(Sometimes too much attention, but hey, life is too short to be dull
and predictable!)

Lots of people write. The only ones who make it in this business are
the ones who aren't afraid to cause a little mayhem. Of course there
are rules in writing. And there are some genres that are going to sell
more easily than others. But don't be afraid to listen to your inner
dog who says "Dig through the garbage you're writing to find that
delicious, unique, one of a kind story you are writing and run with
it!" Don't run with the pack, lead it. If that means the dog catcher
nails you because you are out in front, see lesson one.

Lesson Three : Mayhem is more fun if you bring along a friend (or six.)

There are people who write and then there are writers. Writers are
the ones who jump fences and cause mayhem and stick with it. It's
a tough gig if you are the lone wolf all the time. Sure some of the
work is done sitting in your dog house, contemplating the mayhem
you intend to unleash, mapping it out, researching it, writing it.
But, if you can find one or more like-minded renegades who get
what you are doing, who are on the same road you are and who will
warn you about the dog catchers and bad garbage of life run with
them. It's more fun, less lonely and will improve your game in
every way.

Lesson Four : See everything as an adventure.

Sitting at a computer for hours at a time trying to wrestle words
onto a page when the muse is a big hairy female dog who only wants
to crawl under the bed and chew on a shoe can end up being a real
drag. So much so that you might want to become Doug (SQUIRREL!) the
Dog from the movie Up! When you are a writer there are LOTS of
SQUIRRELS! out there just waiting for you to give chase. At times
like that, remember what it is you love the most about writing -
the adventure! Sniff every flower, run to every tree, go to every
page with the idea you are going to find out something completely
new and amazing! Then wag your tail, get a goofy grin on your face
and move on to the next page of your adventure!

Lesson Five : Put your whole heart into whatever you do no matter how long it

My dog, Clyde, is digging the ultimate hole. He works on it every
day, sometimes for fifteen minutes, sometimes for hours. He puts
his entire being into the digging of his hole. I have no idea where
he's going, but he does. Sometimes he works delicately, sometimes he
just gets in there and digs. And one day he will just lay down, look
at it and wag his tail as if to say "Now THAT is a hole." And he'll
be happy with it. Until he starts the next one. Writing should be
like that. Put your whole self into it, work on it every day and
when a book is done don't be afraid to lay down, wag your tail and
say "Now THAT is a book!"

So there you have it. I have dogs and I'm not afraid to learn from them. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a hole to dig!

Who are some of the teachers of truth in your life and what have they taught you that you apply to your writing?


Kat Jones said...

Great post!! My little ones are definitely 'teachers of truth' for me. They see everything with such awe & wonder. Enjoy such simple pleasures as picking wildflowers or finding bugs. :) And they're fearless. Everything has such possibility to them. They help me keep a fresh & fun outlook on the everyday, including my writing.

Heather said...

This made me smile! I think your observations are dead on. Sometimes it takes a dog's-eye view on the world to make sense of things!

Lexi said...

Dogs love without fear and without expectation. If we can learn to channel that in our writing, the sheer joy, the unqualified LOVE of writing without worrying about what we may get out of it other than loving it, think what we can accomplish and how happy we (and our muses) might be!

Gwynlyn said...

I love my dogs. It is my profound observation that dog is God spelled backward for a reason: Their unconditional love is unswerving, and they're soft and huggable for the rough parts.

Thanks for the laugh, Louisa. I'm off to hug my dogs.

Diana Layne said...

Love dogs, cute post. :)

Vanessa Barneveld said...

Terrific post, Louisa! I'm a cat slave, but how could you not love dogs when they have so much to teach us?

I know someone who's a talented writer, but she just couldn't bring herself to 'jump the fence' and actually submit her work to editors. She wanted to be published, but until she let go of her fear of submitting, there was no way that would happen. Finally she worked up the courage and now she's a multi-pubbed Harlequin author.

Now, I'm going to sit and stay in my chair and write for a few hours.

Carla Swafford said...

See. Everything leads us back to our favorite thing...writing.

Smart dogs. LOL!

Love your post!

Louisa Cornell said...

Oh Kat, kids are GREAT teachers when it comes to enjoying life to the fullest and seeing that everything is possible! Wonder why we forget that as adults.

Louisa Cornell said...

Glad it made you smile, Heather! My dogs definitely keep me grounded. So many times I am running around like an idiot and one look from their bemused faces and I realize I just need to sit down and watch life for a minute to put it all in perspective.

Louisa Cornell said...

You completely get it, Lexi. Great insight. Writing for the sheer love it with no expectations frees us to put every bit of our creativity and soul onto the page.

Louisa Cornell said...

And I'll bet they hug you back, Gwyn! I believe if we want to know how to truly love we must learn to love like our dogs do.

Louisa Cornell said...

Thanks, Diana. Dogs are hard NOT to love, aren't they!

Louisa Cornell said...

LOL ! I hope you at least take yourself for a walk every now and then after you sit and stay!

SO glad your friend jumped the fence. It is scary, but staying inside the fence means you've quit believing.

Yes, I too, in addition to being a dog lover am also staff to four cats. No truer words were spoken than "Dogs have owners. Cats have staff!"

Louisa Cornell said...

Carla, isn't it the truth! Everything in our lives comes back to our addiction, the thing that feeds our souls - writing!!

SO excited about your big news I cannot tell you!!!

Beth Trissel said...

I love love love this post! Sorry it took me so long to get here. I'm a dog lover, love cats too, and agree there is much we can learn from our furry friends. Fabulous insights my dear.

Louisa Cornell said...

Thank you, Beth ! I appreciate you stopping by! I am continually amazed by what I learn from my furry kids if I stop and pay attention!

Greta said...

Great post, Louisa. I really enjoyed reading it. And thanks to Beth for posting the link!

Louisa Cornell said...

Thanks for stopping by, Greta! I'm so glad you enjoyed the post. And thanks to my Pixie Sister, Beth, for posting the link!

Gwen Hernandez said...

Absolutely awesome, Louisa. I knew this was you before I got to the bottom, just from your voice.

Loved, loved, loved the last part: "Now THAT's a book!" I need to sit back and enjoy it like I did at the beginning.

Thanks for the laughs and the reminders.