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A few days after we adopted Cassie, Bridget, our adoption counselor, came by to check on Cassie. She also brought Cassie a stuffed frog. Cassie tossed that frog around a few times. Then she sat down, ripped a hole in it, and started to pull the stuffing out. I was embarrassed that Cassie had torn the new toy right in front of Bridget. I took it away, shoved the stuffing back, and told Bridget I was sorry.

Fast forward a couple of months. We had our first session with Cecelia, a trainer, in our home. Cecelia observed Cassie for a while and I commented on how much Cassie enjoyed her plushie toys. When Cecelia asked me if Cassie ever ripped them open to get the stuffing out I explained about the episode with Bridget's gift. Then Cecelia surprised me. She said that was good. That Cassie was just following her instincts. As long as she wasn't eating the stuffing it was fine, good even.

I felt so bad. Here was our brand new dog who felt comfortable enough in her new home to do one of those things that dogs know how to do by instinct, totally gut something with great joy and abandon, and I had put a quick stop to it all.

Bad dog mommy.

I'm a writer. A writer writes. And sometimes a writer doesn't write. Sometimes she daydreams. Sometimes she reads. And sometimes she ignores everything to do with writing in order to get back in touch with who she is. Which is a writer.

I know all that. Yet sometimes I'll let someone else's idea of what I should or shouldn't be doing stop me from what I know in my gut is the right thing for me. the right thing at that moment in time.

After that first visit with Cecelia I went out and bought Cassie a couple of large stuffed toys. Her favorite is a bright orange gorilla. She played with it for weeks and weeks until one day she found a little hole at the neck. She pulled out a bit of stuffing, just a little bit, and then looked up. Was she waiting to see if was going to put a stop to her following her instincts? Maybe. I just smiled and said, "Good dog." Pretty soon her play room was covered with pieces of stuffing. And Cassie had what they call a "happy mouth," partway open, her tongue hanging out just a bit, almost, but not quite a smile.

I had to smile too as I picked up all the stuffing, pushed it back inside the gorilla, and gave it back to her. She doesn't gut it every day but when she does, she goes at it with great gusto, growling and tossing it back and forth before settling in for a good gutting.

And while Cassie's doing that I try to follow a few instincts of my own, to listen to my body and what it is telling me it needs right at that moment, trusting that I am doing just what I am meant to do and knowing that it always leads me back to the words.

How many times have you wanted to write something but stopped because someone laughed or scolded or told you that you should be doing something else instead?

Don't listen to them. Listen to yourself. Follow your instincts.

Good writer.
There are so many stories only you can tell.Tell them, please.


( 13 comments — Leave comment )
April 9th, 2009 11:29 am (UTC)
This is such a good reminder! Not only do I sometimes not do something because of what someone will say, but I admit to stopping myself because of what someone might say. A nebulous Someone I don't even know.

Bad writer!
April 9th, 2009 03:58 pm (UTC)
Re: YES!
Yes, I do that too. Sigh.
April 9th, 2009 12:58 pm (UTC)
So true!

Pepper does the same thing with her stuffed toys. We'll say, "no ripping....give kisses" and she'll lick it. Eventually, she guts it, though. The birds love it when she does it outside. Ha.
April 9th, 2009 03:59 pm (UTC)
It's really funny because Cassie has two toys that she guts and about 20 plushies that she has had for 6 months and nary a rip.
April 9th, 2009 01:53 pm (UTC)
Such a good post, Susan. I've been very lucky and almost always gotten support. The "bad writer mommy" is usually my own voice, not giving myself & my writing enough credit or power in my life. Maybe I need to add some stuffed animals to my office. :)
April 9th, 2009 04:00 pm (UTC)
Thanks Becky. Yeah, I hear my own voice, my mom's voice, some people from my past with big voices, but I think my own voice is usually the loudest.

Now I have the picture of you sitting at your computer, pulling the stuffing out of a toy and your guys coming home and wondering if mom has really lost it. LOL
April 9th, 2009 05:10 pm (UTC)
Great reminder, Susan. Thanks.

Echo can only have hard chew toys because he doesn't just gut the plush ones, he'll eat them, too. He's eaten three of his dog beds! He had the cutest sheep--he's a sheepdog--that went Baaaah. It lasted one day.
May 1st, 2009 04:59 am (UTC)
hahaha - one day toys. I've had dogs like that too.
April 9th, 2009 07:27 pm (UTC)
Thank you for this, Susan. It's just what I needed to hear right now.

And I think you are a *lovely* dog mommy. What matters most (I hope and believe) isn't whether we get things right the first time. It's whether we have the courage and insight and patience to learn and grow from our experiences and our mistakes. I think it's wonderful that you went out and got Cassie some new toys and stuffing to play with.

May 1st, 2009 05:00 am (UTC)
Thanks. I think you're right, I think it is okay as long as we continue to try to do the right thing, by our dogs and by our writing.
April 9th, 2009 08:24 pm (UTC)
I never knew that about dogs and stuffing. Thanks for sharing.

I know what you mean by this though, "Yet sometimes I'll let someone else's idea of what I should or shouldn't be doing stop me from what I know in my gut is the right thing for me. the right thing at that moment in time."

"Listen to yourself. Follow your instincts."
Good advice, thanks!
May 1st, 2009 05:20 am (UTC)
It's really hard not to cave into peer pressure when we write, isn't it?
(Deleted comment)
May 1st, 2009 05:19 am (UTC)
Thanks, Joyce. I prefer to listen to my characters but sometimes it is hard.
( 13 comments — Leave comment )

Who am I?I was born on the Cancer/Leo cusp and share a birthday with Ernest Hemingway and Robin Williams. The similarities don't stop there as I can go from depressed to ecstatic without ever passing go. I feel scared most of the time though my friends call me brave and I find it easier to believe in my friends than to believe in my own abilities to make what I want out of my life.

Who am I? A wife, a mother, a daughter, and even, gulp, a grandmother.

Who am I? A writer who never gets tired of playing with words, even when the words are hard to find. A writer of books for children and articles for grown-ups and many things in-between.

Who am I? A motivational speaker, writing instructor, workshop leader and full-time follower of dreams.

Who am I? Read and find out.

Susan Taylor Brown

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