Writers, and perhaps other people who expend any energy pondering writers, tend to wax poetic about the idealistic vision of a writer’s life. This particular fantasy might be full of never-ending supplies of coffee, chocolate, wine or other choice vices. It definitely includes hours upon hours of uninterrupted solitude in which to create the next great masterpiece that the world simply must have, interrupted by rare but exhilirating trips into the outside world to receive kudos and awards, like our own Jeanne, pictured here. Left to our own devices, many of us might try to achieve this nirvana, and our family and friends would never hear from us again. Luckily for us, life has a way of protecting us from ourselves by delivering regular doses of writing interruptus.
At least that’s the story I’m telling myself after a weekend full of interruptus and seriously devoid of writing. It’s okay, I tell myself, writers can’t just write about life; they must have real-life experiences to feed the stories. It’s a nice thought, but none of my recent interruptions seem likely to make it into my stories anytime soon. Still, we all know the importance of mentally filing away our experiences, because we never know when some random memory will provide the perfect detail or spark the idea for the perfect scene for a WIP. So I thought I’d share what I’ve learned from just a few of this weekend’s many, many interruptions. Maybe they’ll provide a spark of inspiration for your WIP.
Dogs are a lot of work. I mean a LOT of work. I’m not even talking puppies here. I’m talking about the 2-year-old dog who showed up at our house last Saturday, and who will, by the time you read this post, be waiting for her rightful family to pick her up and take her home. She was our foster dog for a mere nine days and my husband provided 75% of her care to my measly 25% contribution, but I’m nearly as exhausted as I was when we had a baby. Some of our foster dog’s boundless energy and desperate need for company (as evidenced by the custom blinds she destroyed during the one three-hour period she was left alone all week), is apparently due to being a Beagle.
There are, we’ve been told, lower-maintenance breeds out there. But I’m not sure there are any that are sweeter and happier to see people, any people, all people, and dogs and cats and bunnies (althought her main interest in bunnies is chasing them). And there are other breed-specific traits we learned about Beagles during this exciting week as well, for example, the way they spend most of their outdoor time with their snouts to the ground, sniffing out any and every critter they can find, ‘pointing’ (one front leg bent up, nose out) when they find something really interesting, and resorting to a distinctive and disconcerting beying when they really want your attention.
In a recent post, Jilly talked about looking for the right breed of dog for one of her characters, and lots of people chimed in with great ideas and breed traits. I didn’t have much to add to the conversation because, like Jilly, I’m not a dog owner. I’m a dog lover, in fact an animal lover in general, but I am not a font of knowledge. But I do know a thing or two about Beagles, for Jilly or anyone else adding a dog into the story mix. Your heroine wants an adorable, loving but needy companion who wakes the neighbors with nighttime howling? A Beagle is the perfect choice. But if she wants a guard dog? A Beagle’s not the best choice unless she wants the dog to invite the bad guys into the house and show them around, all while begging for attention, maybe to distract them while our girl gets out her trusty frying pan to defend herself. Thinking of writing a Beagle into your WIP? Let me know. I’ve got a few anectdotes you can use.
Traveling with unpredictable creatures is not for the faint of heart (or weak of stomach). This is one of those things I learned as a young parent but somehow forgot as the years went by and my baby grew up into a much better-traveling adult. This week I re-learned that lesson while on an unavoildable out-of-state trip with our foster dog in tow. I don’t want to go into too much detail here – really, it’s just too soon – but let’s just say, if you’ve written about someone traveling with a pet or a small child and there is no mess, no fuss, and no disgusting stuff to clean off car or train or plane seats, you, my friend, must be writing a fantasy novel.
Husbands really can be real-life heroes. I didn’t want this post to be all about dogs, even if the stress of dog ownership does seem to be the lesson the universe wanted me to learn this week. So I thought I’d add this cliché uttered by nearly every married romance writer who’s ever won an award. If I am ever fortunate enough to win such an award, I will try very hard not to utter this phrase (and the other eight ladies will thank me for that). But you know, sometimes clichés become just that for good reason, like being true.
As previously mentioned, my real-life hero husband (I had to say it here because he knows I’ll never say it in an award acceptance speech) turned his life inside-out and upside-down to be the primary foster dog caregiver so I could meet insane deadlines at my day job. And he has a pretty high-stress day job himself and is running low on energy, too. So when we arrived home from our out-of-state trip and I made the horrible discovery that I’d left my computer and its bag with all the things in it that I need to do my day job, the last thing I expected was that he would give me a kiss, tell me not to worry, pick up his keys, and head back to the car for a three-hour round-trip to retrieve my computer. But that’s exactly what he did, just like the heroes in our stories who bring our girls exactly what they need, when they need it, without being asked first. My hero! *cue swoon onto my fainting couch*
So that’s how my glamorous writing life went this past week. Did you get the chance to hole up with wine and chocolate, or did the universe have interesting and exciting lessons for you to learn, too?