Thursday, October 18, 2007

Write Like a Dog

Having spent my entire lifetime in the company and casual study of canines, I realize that their behaviors offer many wise pieces of advice that all writers can use:

Dig Deeply: That’s my lab in the picture again, caught in a moment of uncontrollable exploration, but that precious last morsel could very well be down at the bottom of the bag. Writers need to be able to dig deep, too, whether it’s to the depths of our creative souls or our motivation. Just because the bag looks and feels empty doesn’t mean there isn’t another gem down there. Keep digging.

Sniff the Air Frequently: Why does my middle dog continue to dig the hole that I have filled in three times already? Because her keen sense of smell tells her that the chipmunk’s tunnel lies beneath. A dog’s sense of smell is said to be a thousand times stronger than humans. They have a wider field of peripheral vision and can perceive sounds in a frequency range we cannot. Dogs use their senses to survive. Writers can too. The observations writers make and their awareness of what is going on around them can be critical to developing a realistic, well-described story.

Bark Less, Communicate More: In the natural world, dogs generally don’t bark unless they have a reason to do so. When they do, it’s to communicate something – an alert or to signify who is the alpha dog. Dogs are naturally economical in their communication. Writers should be, too. If the words aren’t necessary, don’t put them down.

Eat, Play, Rest: Oh, to have a dog’s life! My dogs have mastered happiness from this standpoint. Writers live full lives, but there is much to be said for frolicking around with the other dogs and taking naps when the opportunity arises.

Never Pass Up a Bowl of Food: My yellow lab has never passed up a meal in his life. The writing life is fraught with difficult times, so if a free meal is offered, say thanks and take it. If you’re blessed enough to have a full bowl, offer it to the next dog in line.

Sit, Stay: A well-trained dog can sit and stay for quite a long time because that's the task they have at hand. Like I said…writers can learn a lot from dogs.


Mark Terry said...

And more:

Work like a dog. Of course, my dog, being a spoiled chocolate Lab, hasn't worked a day in his life. This refers to sheepdogs or mushers, but hey, it's the thought that counts.

Sniff other dogs (writers') butts. Hmmm, er, network, I guess.

Drool uncontrollably. Let's say enthusiasm, shall we? Show a passion for whatever's in front of you, a need, a...

Share a bed with your pack. Hmmm, er, realize your editor and publisher and, uh, agent, are your pack. Uh, share a bed... hmmm...

Take numerous regular walks a day, even if it's raining or -10 degrees. Um, work under every condition.

Give yourself lots of treats, even if they're smoked pig ears. Speaks for itself, I guess. Reward yourself.

Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

Wonderful and wise posting, Felicia. And, Mark, your comments were just icing on the cake.

Nina Wright said...

Felicia--You're a wise woman! I embrace your loving and respectful view of dogs...including those rare rogue canines, one of whom inspired my fictional Diva Dog, Abra the Afghan hound. I've had many wonderful dogs in my life, but it took one exceedingly difficult (and possibly crazy) canine to inspire Abra. Little did I know that the dog who snapped at everyone and frequently ran off to the village tavern would lead me to my first mystery series. The Muse works in mysterious ways. WOOF!

Bill Cameron said...

Good stuff. Great post!

Julia Buckley said...

So, Felicia: the fact that my dog's nose is permanently glued to the rear ends of other creatures, whether they be cats or humans--can that be metaphorically linked to writing? :)

Must we "sniff the rear end" of the world to find the seamier details of our books?

Rick Bylina said...

Dog-gone-it. I knew I should have bought a dog and not a fish.


Felicia Donovan said...

Julia, I'll defer to Mark's inference that sniffing the other dog's butt is akin to humans networking. Actually, dogs do that for a specific reason. By sniffing another dog, they can determine the dog's health, whether a female dog is pregnant, whether the dog is friend or foe. It's an important social part of being a dog. Writers, who can sometimes tend to be a bit reclusive, need to sniff out other writers, too. Just not THERE!

dog house noah said...

Yeah you're right. Writers do have a lot to learn from a dog ..:D

I also have to applaud Mark terry for his nice comment! I had fun reading this entry.