–By Laura Oles
Writing, as we all know, is a solitary process. You’re the only one who can get words on the page, edits turned in on time, and new projects out in the world. Because of this, it helps to have a support network to help you get out of your own head. I don’t subscribe to the idea that being alone all the time makes my writing any stronger. In fact, I think it’s quite the opposite. I’m grateful to have several talented writers as friends, and I know I’ve become a stronger writer because of their guidance and support.
I also have someone in my life who contributes in a different way. She doesn’t get to our critique meetings and harbors no opinion on the plotter/pantser debate.
This is Amber. She’s part of my writing support group.
Her words per minute score on the laptop is pretty abysmal, she naps for hours and she always wants me to write stories about dogs in swimming pools.
But she has other skills.
She gets me outside for a walk each day, which it turns out, is really important when I’m spending my days at my desk or inside the house. I tend to overthink things–big things, small things, you name it–so the fact that she needs to get out to stretch those Labrador legs comes in very handy. When I find myself wrapped up in something that I can’t figure out, it’s time for us to go outside.
The temperatures in Texas are topping triple digits on the regular, so this means we have to get our two-mile walk down pretty early in the morning. After a few hours of wrestling with a project, I’m ready for a break and a short walk around the neighborhood. Amber is always ready for a stroll. Her dependence on me makes me a better writer. It forces me to go outside and get a different perspective. Dogs plus nature equal happiness in my book.
Sometimes I talk to myself, trying to work out a plot point or a scene, and Amber is the perfect partner in this situation. She lets me talk it out without looking at me like I’m crazy. She walks alongside, searching for deer to chase and brush to walk under for back scratches. Those brief outings help me shake things loose in my mind, not to mention my back.
One of the best pieces of writing advice I’ve ever received is to “keep your butt in the chair.” I remind myself of this during those times when I’m feeling challenged and want nothing more than to get up and distract myself. So, in those situations, I sit and wrestle with the task at hand. Well, not all the time. There are times that I go get a cup of coffee and a snack. Or two snacks. Maybe do some productive procrastination (housework, email). However, sometimes Amber needs me to get my butt OUT of the chair, and this responsibility is what helps me get back IN the chair later.
So, dogs are good for writers.
Cats may disagree.
I’ve never had a cat willing to go on a walk with me.