If you have ever lived with a dog, loved a dog, or even read about a dog, chances are good that you have an entire toolkit of strategies for your writing life woven into your nervous system — imprinted by your canine companion. My dog Henry thinks my company is so exquisite that he literally can’t bear to let a bathroom door come between us. My dog Hamachi, who was driven to the same park every morning for the first five years of her life, started shrieking and yowling with joyful anticipation when we were within a mile of that park each and every day.
What if we were to hold our writing in such high regard–a companion whose every appearance is celebrated–and who must be escorted like a dance partner through every room of our lives? What if we were to approach that same, old desk or notebook or laptop with a newborn thrill each and every time, and then leap from mind to page with the entire wriggling mass of our forward motion: committed to the investigation, sniffing out every image and metaphor for signs?
And when we have covered every inch of our working document with our scent to our satisfaction, what if we were to leave the ball in the back of the car/the laptop on its shelf, flop ourselves down, fling our off-duty limbs every which way and sink into a deep and restorative nap that will provide the next energy boost necessary for house-defending, human-food-begging, cat provoking, and belly-rub receiving (translated: editing, pitching, social media collaborating and conversing).
Then, there is the single-mindedness of the dog. As far as I can tell, the thought process seems to be: I want it. How will I get it? Period. In my lifetime of co-habitating with dogs, I have yet to see evidence to suggest that any dog is asking him/herself: Am I worthy? or I might not get it, so why should I try? Or, Will I embarrass myself? or What if that other dog is better at getting it than I am? This seems to clear up a lot of space for simply going for it. And, this increases the odds of succeeding.
When the dog doesn’t get what is wanted? It experiments with strategies (begging, looking cute, being sneaky, getting the cat involved, bullying, pulling harder, etc.) until it finds one that works. Because I, for one, tend to need reminding that there are always alternatives to consider if a particular approach or attitude isn’t serving me, the ever-optimistic making-it-happen consciousness of my canine companions serves as a lovely reminder.
What does your inner canine want from your writing life? How does s/he intend to revel in the anticipation of getting there? How will s/he love the work of moving toward this goal? And when, oh when, is nap time?