Thursday, July 1, 2010

Want to Be a Better Writer? Get a Dog.

About six years ago, we got a tiny little fluffy black bundle who would soon grow into a 75 pound walking hairball. The story is legendary in our family about how we were just going out to 'look' at a puppy at the adoption event. WE WERE NOT COMING HOME WITH A DOG. Of course, he rode home in the backseat between my two boys and once the potty training was sorted out he became a valuable member of the family. His favorite food is edamame. I'm not kidding - don't even try to eat any unless you give him a pod or two.

About eight o clock every morning, the big hairy dog and I go for a long walk. The dog goes for the squirrel spotting. I go because it's the best work hour of the whole day.

After a lot of trial and error, I've come up with a perfect system. I go alone, without iPod or cell phone so that all I have to do is help spot squirrels and think about whatever story I'm working on at the time. Somehow, the rhythm of walking and the absence of anything else to do has helped me get some of my best writing ideas. I don't take a pen and paper because I hold to the theory that anything that is truly great will be remembered for the hour it takes me to get home. Walking with the dog has helped me solve naming issues, plot problems, character motivations and even blog post topics. There is usually at least one 'aha' moment during each walk, when some seemingly insurmountable problem suddenly becomes clear.

If you find yourself stalled in your work or constantly running into walls with your writing, I suggest a dog as a solution to your problems. If you don't want to make the 14 or so year commitment with your own canine, feel free to borrow mine.

Just know that if he spots a squirrel, all bets are off.

On this date: In 1979, the first Sony Walkman goes on sale.


The mad woman behind the blog said...
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Julie_c said...

I find that a good, long shower also does the trick for me. :) Or folding laundry. Fortunately, we have plenty of that around here.

Anna said...

My husband and I just adopted a dog a couple weeks ago. She is also a black furball and so far she's been a good muse. I haven't gotten any great ideas while walking her yet, but just having the regular exercise and fresh air has made my brain feel more awake. Plus, how can you be a brooding writer when you have an adoring squirrel-chaser at your side?

Kari said...

What a beautiful dog! I would be insanely jealous--except I'm getting a puppy at the end of the summer!

I think I'll be spending more time vacuuming the house than walking her, but that still gives me time to plot and detangle story lines.

shelley said...

This is so true. Walking in general gives me some of the best thoughts in my writing. And I am, also, of the the belief that if I remember it, it must be worth remembering. Walking alone in quiet is the best medicine for a problem in writing. Also, sleeping on it helps, too.

cynjay said...

Don't even get me started on the vacuuming! Anything meditative would probably work (I know there has been a lot of talk about marketing waterproof paper for shower note taking), but having that dog who is expecting a walk every day is the only motivation I've been able to stick with.