A few months ago I introduced you to my beagle, Willie. He’s a rambunctious creature, stubborn and sweet—sugar and spice as they used to say. He, like most of us, has his faults, but we chalk them up to personality disorder (probably a result of feeding him table food) and move on.
Willie is now in his (how can I put this diplomatically?) “past prime” years and, among other things, is edging from lithe to pudgy. The spring he once had in his step has sprung and his leaps have leveled out. At one time in his mid-years he could jump heights that left us breathless. He reminded us of a gazelle. Sort of.
I will never forget a luncheon I had for my Bible study one beautiful spring day a few years ago. (In Willie’s younger days.)The table in the dining room was a feast of color….daffodils and tulips as well as dyed Easter eggs and colorful streamers. We had eaten quiche and fruit and scrumptious gooey rolls a friend had brought, and were in the kitchen getting coffee and refills on desserts. One lady, new to our Bible study, came quietly up to me and whispered in my ear, “Is your dog permitted on the dining room table?”
When she saw the horror on my face, she took me by the hand into the dining room where Willie was walking down the middle of the table. He casually strolled from plate to plate eating what ever had been left and licking the plate clean. He didn’t seem to enjoy the kiwi, but everything else was disappearing. So engrossed was he in his exploration of each delicacy that he didn’t hear my rapid intake of air nor did he see the smoke coming out of my ears.
How could he do that! Where were his manners? I felt mortified.
When we went to get coffee, he must have jumped from the floor to the chair to the table and begun his adventure. I clutched the back of a chair to keep from doing something I would regret in front of women whose opinions I valued.
“Willie” I hissed through clenched teeth. “Willie, come down here right now.”
He turned and looked at me with a bit of crust hanging from his top lip. “Why would I do that when I am in food Nirvana?” —I could see the answer in his eyes as he chomped down a cinnamon roll.
“Get. Off. That. Table.” I swallowed hard. “NOW!”
Casually, and with great reluctance, he headed to the other end of the table, jumped down onto a chair, then jumped down onto the floor and made a mad dash down the hall away from me.
My new friend was doubled over with laughter at his bizarre behavior. No one else knew what had happened, but I was mortified. Then I thought, “that’s what dogs do.” Well, at least that’s what spoiled, center of attention, light of your life dogs do. And that’s what Willie is. Once again, his actions seemed a perfect illustration of the writing life. (Not that we fit the spoiled etc. description.) It may seem bizarre to others, but writers write.
Willie’s Lessons for Writers
- Go for it. Leave your audience breathless.
- Don’t be intimidated
- You don’t always have to follow the rules.
- Check out each flavor (mystery, romance, espionage, children’s, religious) to see which you like the most. It does’t hurt to try a little of everything.
- Take your time and savor the experience.
- Be true to yourself. Don’t let someone else get you down.
- It’s prudent to have an exit strategy.
- If you blow it, just walk away. There is always tomorrow.
Imperfect lessons? Of course—but they are, after all, learned from a dog. Don’t be intimidated, write what you love. But do write. And write some more. Who cares what anyone else thinks?