Sunday, May 04, 2008

My muse, hard at workMy muse, hard at work

Everything I know about writing I learned from my dog, Yofi. Oh sure, her lovemaking scenes involve more buttsniffing than mine, and there was that disaster where her hero was distracted by a can opener while he was disarming a bomb, but overall, I can learn a lot from her.

For example:

Stay focused.

When she’s in the backyard hunting moles, Yofi can stand still forever, not an eyelid twitching, not a hair moving. She has her eyes on the prize, and she will do whatever it takes to get it. When she makes her move, her muscles explode into action as she begins digging furiously.
She’s not distracted by laundry or other books or rejection letters from publishers. She’s going to get that mole, and that’s all that matters.

Be a big dog in a little package.

Sure, we snicker at wiener dogs, but as dachshund owners know, inside, they’re Rottweilers. They’re willing to take on all comers, and they don’t back down. They don’t let their size keep them from doing what needs to be done. Remember, it’s not the dog in the fight, it’s the fight in the dog.
Same thing with writing. Don’t be intimidated by writers who make the NYT list or blog about their world book tours. You can be a big dog, even if you’re writing for a small publisher. You just have to put all of your fight into it, and believe in your heart that you’re a Rottweiler.

When you’re not working, relax.

When Yofi isn’t trying to save the world from moles, she doesn’t obsess over them. She puts them behind her, and makes sleeping an art form. She saves her energy for what’s important. She takes time to sniff...well, not the roses, but you get the idea.


I admit, dachshunds don’t have to work that hard at characterization because they’re so darn adorable. It’s not like they’re cats or something.
But even when it comes naturally, it’s important to remember that you need to pick out the details to make the character come alive–how he stands, how he laughs, what he enjoys and doesn’t enjoy, whether his tail wags and his ears perk up when he sees the heroine, that sort of thing.

Set goals.

One evening I heard the dog barking in an especially frantic manner, and then quiet. I knew this meant there was another animal about, so I rushed out into the yard. Sure enough, she had her jaws clamped around the tail of an armadillo that outweighed her and was armored as well. But Yofi wasn’t letting go. She dug in all of her 12 ½ pounds and held on for dear life while the armadillo scrabbled at the ground. I finally got them separated with a broom and the ‘dillo scampered off to safety, but that dog was as proud as if she’d just won Westminster.
She set her goal and she achieved it. She was going to capture that invader, even if the whole world thought she was too small to make it happen.
Do you have days when you think you’ll never finish the book? Clamp your jaws down and don’t let go.

So my muse inspires me as she lies on her bed in my office. Sometimes when I get stuck, I ask myself, “What would the dog do?” Usually the answer isn’t at all helpful–licking yourself really doesn’t replace conflict resolution, but sometimes she leads me in the right direction. All I have to remember is that if it’s a dog’s life, it could be one we would be wise to learn from.


Lottery Girl said...

Yofi is a genius! I'll bet she and Sparky would have great philosophical debates. Mojo, on the other hand, is a guy who just wants to have fun.

Seriously, great post.

Darlene said...

Yes, I've had dogs like Mojo before. They tend to be more easygoing than the ones who feel like they have to question everything you tell them to do.[g]

Glad you enjoyed the post!

Capo said...

That's a sweet looking dog you got there, Darlene! I had a Weiner dog when I was a kid. One of the best friends I ever had!

Darlene said...

This is the first dachshund I've ever owned, but now I'm hooked. Smart and bossy, great watchdogs (seriously!) and portable. A lot of love in a little package.