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  • June 24th, 2009 | 10:55 AM
Of Dogs and Writing - Devotion

Cassie goes pretty much everywhere I go. When I change rooms at home, from my office to the library, she follows and plops down into her bed in that room. When I go into the kitchen, she follows and either waits by her food dish, hoping goodies will magically appear or waits on one of the rugs with her "adorable dog is starving and you ought to feed me goodies now face" until I cave in and give her a treat. Even when I go into the bathroom, she follows me. If I don't close the door all the way she noses it open. If I do, she lays down, nose pointed right at the door, waiting for me to come out again. When I work in the front yard she waits in the courtyard, keeping guard. When I work in the backyard she is right there, nose poking into everything I do.

I love this. I love this devotion more than I can say. And I try to echo the devotion right back to her. She has tons of toys. She gets two meals a day abd yummy treats for doing tricks and sometimes just for being cute. She has fresh water in the house, in the front yard and in the backyard. She goes on daily walks, rides in the car and sleeps in the bedroom with us. Spoiled rotten, oh yeah. And like I said, I love all of this. Really I do.

However. As many of you know Cassie has a set of bells she rings when she wants to go outside. It's become quite the routine with my husband and I working from home, one of us just getting settled at the computer and her highness rings the bells. The other one of us will yell "I'll get it" and come to open the door. We never know when she needs to go out to do her business, when she wants to go out and work on her suntan, or when she merely wants to get our attention so we will come play with her.

But now there is a new trick. In the evenings my husband and I are usually both in the library with our laptops on our lap. Cassie, after her dinner, is reclining in her bed in front of the fireplace. After a bit of a nap she rises, stretches, and walks over to ring the bell. I get up and open the door, expecting to see her bound off to the bushes for some private time.

But no. She just drinks the water out of her bowl on the back porch and comes back inside. We have a large house but not so immense that it is that much farther to walk to the kitchen for her water. In fact, it's probably almost equal distance.

Does she do it because the water tastes better outside? That's what one person told me, that the chlorine would have evaporated faster from the water outside so it would taste better. Does she do it because it means one of us will have to get up and wait on her? Sometimes it feels that way. But maybe she just does it because it feels good and she wants a change and it makes her happy to drink her water outside in our lovely garden.

When an idea is new, I follow it everywhere. I read all I can about it. I am its best friend, its shadow, its devoted dog companion. If you keep writing long enough you will have more than one project and not always in the brand-new devoted companion stage. I'm working on several projects at once. There's Flyboy's story which is in the getting it down on paper in a crummy draft stage. There's Plant Kid's story which is still in the soaking up all the stuff I can about plants stage. There's the class I'm teaching which is in the how can help them learn it all in a short time stage. And I'm working on a couple of articles that are in the interview stages.

I used to beat myself up because I didn't work on my writing the same way other people did. I knew lots of people who picked a project, started it and then worked on it until it was done. I thought that was what I had to do in order to be a success writer. Well I tried. I tried and tried and tried and I just couldn't do it. My brain didn't operate very well that way. I found that some days I was okay working on just one project and other days I got bored or stuck or just wasn't in the mood but when I switched to another project, it was full speed ahead. I have finally (mostly) accepted that this is my process.

Sometimes I have to make myself stay in the room with a particular project because I'm on deadline but sometimes I can follow the words wherever I want to, just because they make me feel good.

Doesn't that just make this the best job in the world?
There are so many stories only you can tell.Tell them, please.


( 6 comments — Leave comment )
June 24th, 2009 06:32 pm (UTC)
I work on lots of projects at once. It's the only way for me! Do what works. And...you ARE a successful writer!
June 25th, 2009 12:09 am (UTC)
Thanks, Susan! I appreciated this so much.

It's funny how we all get ideas in our head about what "successful writers" do. I'm one of those one-project-at-a-time writers, and I have been known to beat myself up because I can't move easily from one thing to another. But it's important to honor your own process, I think.
June 25th, 2009 03:21 pm (UTC)
I can't imagine a ONE project way of life. Now all I need to do is trade in my rather independent cat for a faithful dog companion and we'll be very much alike.
June 30th, 2009 09:19 pm (UTC)
BAHAHAHA! I taught my dogs to ring a bell when they had to go out and do whatever doggy business they needed to do, and they were great at first. But then, the backfire happend. Whenever I'd be on the computer, turning a page in a book, or watching the sunset through the windows, RING! They'd ring the bell with great vigor. And I
Did they want to go out? Not really. They learned to ring for attention! So now when they ring, I tell them that we have a Doorman, not a Butler, and kick them out. The attention ringing has lessened and I am able to write with fewer interruptions.
I also realized that being followed from room to room, even to the bathroom, was a sign that I am recognized as their true Leader. Dogs follow their Leaders; this instinct is hard-wired into their brains. Who knows when their Leader may decide to hunt or mark territory? So I patted myself on the back with this one. But I draw the line when they want to stick their long collie noses into the shower with me.
July 1st, 2009 02:48 am (UTC)
This was wonderful. I'm definitely a many-projects-at-once type of writer, and often have thought I should be the other sort. Dratted "shoulds". Thank you for expressing so well that many-projects is a true way to be, it can be celebrated, and it can be successful!

SCB from http://thoughtsongs.blogspot.com
July 1st, 2009 07:08 pm (UTC)
We have to figure out what works best for us, and it might not be what everyone else does!
( 6 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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"Successful writers are not the ones who write the best sentences. They are the ones who keep writing. They are the ones who discover what is most important and strangest and most pleasurable in themselves, and keep believing in the value of their work, despite the difficulties."
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