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
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
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?