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  • December 2nd, 2009 | 1:07 AM
Of Dogs and Writing - Taking it Seriously

There are two things that Cassie takes very seriously, food and sleep. She loves to eat but she REALLY loves to sleep. The whole process of settling in for a nap requires much pacing and groaning and moaning and sighing when, at last, she lowers her body to the floor and closes her eyes. She's pretty predicitable too. After dinner she plays for a while and then it's coma dog, crashed out in the library or whatever room we are in at the moment. This is good and bad. The good is that she's quiet and not bothering anyone. I can write or we can watch TV without popping up to rescue the ball out from under the couch 100 times. the bad is that she's a coma dog. By that I mean she won't wake up. Which wouldn't be a REALLY bad thing except that before we go upstairs so we can all go to bed she really needs to go outside and take care of business one last time.

But she won't wake up. It's sleep time and she intends to keep right on sleeping until I can give her a good reason why she ought to get out of her comfy bed. That good reason is usually the sound of me tapping the lid of her cookie jar against the side of the jar. Like a doorbell, it gets her attention. With the promise of a cookie, she'll get out of bed and go outside.

One of my favorite times of night is our bedtime routine. After her last trip outside she trots off to my husband's office to tell him goodnight and then waits at the bottom of the stairs, for me to follow. We head up to the bedroom and she goes through the whole settling down process and then she rests her head on the edge of her bed and stares at me. I usually sit up with the light on and read for a while. When I finally turn off the light she moans as though she has been suffering 100 years waiting for the dark to fill the room. I love the sound of that goodni

Recently we decided to let her have a chair in the library. (Sorry, Cecila) It's been really funny to watch because she's a big dog who should be able to bound up into the chair easily but instead she climbs up, one foot at a time, like an old woman. And now she has a new routine. After dinner and playtime she naps in her bed in front of the fireplace and then after a few hours, climbs into the chair and goes back to sleep.

But she is still coma dog, intent on sleeping through any possible command I give her. Like I said, she takes her sleep seriously. She gives it 110%. And then some. She commits.

Some books are harder to write than others. Some come out as gifts and we stare at them, wondering where they came from. Others tease us with a few sentences or a paragraph or two and then it gets tough and we find it easy to walk away from the story. And sometimes walking away is the right thing to do. Sometimes a story needs a longer incubation time.

But not always. At least not for me. Most of the time for me it is a matter of taking it seriously. Making a commitment to tell that particular story with the same single-minded determination that Cassie applies to taking a nap. I might do a lot of pacing and circling and moaning and groaning before I get comfortable with it but the important thing for me is to put in the time, the butt in the chair and the fingers on the keys.

Lots of people want to "have written" more than they want to make the commitment to be a writer. You have to be willing to do the work.
There are so many stories only you can tell.Tell them, please.


( 13 comments — Leave comment )
(Deleted comment)
December 4th, 2009 06:10 am (UTC)
Re: Great post!
Yes, that incubation time is key, isn't it? I hope you find the time you need to let yourself sink into your story.
December 2nd, 2009 03:27 pm (UTC)
LOL. I love that BIC visual of Cassie :) And all that moaning and groaning and circling...too funny, and all too true. Good post!
December 4th, 2009 06:11 am (UTC)
Thanks. She is a MOST vocal girl. haha
December 3rd, 2009 12:34 am (UTC)
Marisol has a chair in the library, too! I think she and Cassie would totally be friends.

Only thing is that my writing desk is in the same room, and when Mari's bored, she lies in the chair and moans. Very hard to work with moaning in the background.
December 4th, 2009 06:12 am (UTC)
Oh I love this pic! Thanks for sharing it. And I agree that Marisol and Cassie would be buddies.
December 3rd, 2009 01:19 am (UTC)
Cassie is precious! Her bedtime antics remind me of my lab, who every night without fail, jumps in bed and tries to snuggle between us. She even pretends to sleep so we won't move her! Aren't dogs the greatest? Thank you for the writing advice. I can't wait to share it with my students.
December 4th, 2009 06:12 am (UTC)
I love the fake sleeping so you won't move her!
December 3rd, 2009 01:20 am (UTC)
Cassie is precious! Her bedtime antics remind me of my lab, who every night without fail, jumps in bed and tries to snuggle between us. She even pretends to sleep so we won't move her! Aren't dogs the greatest? Thank you for the writing advice. I can't wait to share it with my students.
December 3rd, 2009 01:21 am (UTC)
Sorry, didn't mean to repeat my post!
December 3rd, 2009 02:11 am (UTC)
Thanks Susan, this post really resonates with me today, each chapter I'm revising heading up to the climax and the end seems to need to be rewritten everyday, over and over, so it's taking a week to finish one right now. And I need to think, do I want to get it done? or get it right?

Cute dog too :-)
December 4th, 2009 06:13 am (UTC)
Re: commitment
Glad it spoke to you, Keely. It's hard to give ourselves the time to sink into our stories but that's what we need to do.
(Deleted comment)
December 4th, 2009 06:15 am (UTC)
You are such a powerhouse, Laura. I feel positively lazy when I think of what you get accomplished.

Congratulations for getting your chapter book down! That's terrific.
(Deleted comment)
December 4th, 2009 06:16 am (UTC)
Snort! "Write like coma dog." yes!
( 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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