Sunday, July 10, 2011

Dogs and writing

In addition to writing a blog, I also write fiction.  I've wrote short stories and a big long (and very bad) fantasy epic in high school.  I took writing classes in college, and even now dabble in short fiction and start the occasional novel.  Nothing has been published yet.

Since 2007, I've taken part in National Novel Writing Month, which is an online even that traditionally takes place in November, in which your goal is to write a 50,000 word novel in the thirty days that comprise the month.  That's a novel of about the length of The Great Gatsby, or Of Mice and Men, for a point of comparison.

In 2009, when we got Elka, I discovered that it's difficult to accomplish something like sitting at your computer for an uninterrupted block of time to compose stories and characters from the Æther.  Not impossible, just difficult.  Puppies, like babies, are Up To Something if they are too quiet for too long, and such a thing is quiet distracting.  We worked with it, though (Kongs helped. So did a duck.)  This year, for the first time, we have Camp NaNoWriMo, and at the very least, I'm giving July a whirl.

Elka is a very good couch companion, typically.  If I'm novelling on a laptop, she'll curl up next to me and sleep.  Sometimes, she'll turn her head and rest it on the keyboard in the hopes of ear rubs, and I'll end up with a line of "11111111111ssssssswwwwwww" that I have to delete, but really, that's kind of funny.  She's very dry mouthed, so I don't worry about drool in the laptop when she does something like that.  Sleeping is really the best place for a dog to be while one is trying to compose a novel.  

Why do I do NaNoWriMo, of any iteration?  It's not really about motivation; I write even when nobody reads it.  However, I'm not all that good at finishing stories.  So, a project like this, with a specific start and end date, and word goal, is a good driving force for me.  I don't know anybody else in person who participates in it, or that has participated since I started too.  Writing, for me anyway, is rather a solitary venture, even with the trusty Elka by my side.

Of course, breaks are necessary, for the sake of my wrists and sanity, and also Elka's sanity.  Just because I'm writing the Great American Novel doesn't mean she doesn't still need play and exercise.  Even potty breaks for her are more than just that, as when the bark yard isn't a mud hole, we play with the tennis balls for a little while each time.  It blows of an unbelievable amount of her energy in a small amount of time, and helps me decompress a little bit.  It's easy to think you have your writer face on and get wrapped up in that and the idea of that, as opposed to actually producing good writing.  Granted, "good writing" is subjective, to a degree, but we each hold ourselves to a standard, yes?  Getting your face out of your writing helps you look at it anew when you return to it.

National Novel Writing Month is supposed to be a writing blitz, a stream of monthly madness in which the whole point is that you're writing, actually writing, not editing, not worrying what people think, and not necessarily worrying about it being good.  It's supposed to be freeing, and cathartic, and hopefully leave you with copy you can work with, and really, Elka helps with this.  She distracts me, she gives me material, and can lighten my mood with just the right head tilt.  Many writers had dogs they wrote about (Emily Dickinson, Elizabeth Barret Browning, John Steinbeck, classically, and more recently Dean Koontz, Jon Katz, and even Nora Roberts), and there's something about dogs that just makes them fit.  We know from various studies that they relax us and make us happy, so perhaps Hemingway would have done better with a dog instead of a house full of cats, who knows.

I won't tell you my current word count, as I am perpetually behind, and then spike to catch up.  But I'm happy with what I've been writing, and I've been happy with Elka's "contributions" (and no, I haven't left them in the file to bolster my word count!).  Now excuse me; Elka has to go outside for potty, and I guess we'll throw a ball around for a little while before I return my nose to the grindstone.

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