Last January we lost our 10 year-old Golden Retriever to Cancer, and although I missed her terribly, I was almost grateful that life got so crazy I couldn't dwell on just how much I missed her. Between packing and moving and unpacking, there has been a lot to do on top of writing, which definitely took a backseat to everything else for a while.
I had planned to get another dog next spring, once we had been in our new place for a year or so. Except last week I suffered what could only be deemed a moment of sheer insanity. The kids and I got a puppy. And not just any puppy. Sure, we could have gone with a cute and cuddly breed small enough to curl up in my lap. Or even another retriever. Not one that will turn into a small horse in the not so distant future, one affectionately dubbed the gentle giant, emphasis on GIANT. We got a Great Dane.
Strangely enough, I haven't regretted that momentary lapse, even though we're still dealing with some housebreaking issues. The one thing I've been reminded about this week is how much having a puppy is like writing a book. And since you all know how much I like my lists, what better format to make my comparisons. :)
1. Establishing a routine is key.
A puppy needs to how things work, like going outside for a pee after having her breakfast every morning. Writers can usually benefit from setting up their own routine and sticking to it. I always get more writing done when I make sure to plant my butt in a chair and write the moment I get home every morning from driving my boys to school.
2. Frequent Potty Breaks are a must.
Remember that part about housebreaking? Puppies need to get out and romp around in the grass (often doing everything except going potty) as much writers need to know when to step back from a problematic scene or chapter and give their minds something else to play with. Though, I'd go with checking out the Twitterverse or reading for a bit versus eating the grass in your backyard. :)
3. It takes a lot of dedication.
Puppies are a handful and it can be pretty easy to let your frustration get the best of you. Giving up when things become a challenge only makes everything tougher. There will be days (or months in my case) when there will be little to no progress on a book, but I can guarantee it will never get finished if you let your frustration with your lack of progress push you into saying, "Screw it". Hang in there. It'll get better.
4. Periods of craziness are often followed by complete shutdown.
Puppies play hard, but when they crash, they're out for a good, long time. If you're lucky. :) Binge writing isn't so different. After pushing myself with Write or Die or taking up a few 1k1hr challenges, my brain needs to take a break or else I end up with something like this: See Dick run. See Dick turn into a big, black cat. See Dick pounce on Jane. Enough said.
5. It's all about having fun.
It's hard not to smile when you see a puppy drop into a crouch while keeping their wiggling butt in the air right before they pounce. They're all about playing and enjoying every second. Once you decide to make writing a career, it can be very easy to forget that you started writing for the sheer pleasure and challenge of it. Business, deadlines and the dreaded synopsis can really suck the fun out of writing, but reminding yourself that you love what you do and how much fun it is to spend the day making stuff up, is the only way I know of to avoid burning out.
Before I go and see what kind of trouble Simi has gotten into while I wrote this (you ever notice puppies get real quiet, like kids, when they're into something?) do you have any puppy or pet stories to share?