Unlikely Teachers

3 Things My Dogs Taught Me About Writing

Ruth's adorable dogs
Ruth's adorable dogs

It is my pleasure to present the first guest blogger in the Unlikely Teachers Series. I love her articles and couldn’t wait to see what she wrote for the series. To say the least, she did not disappoint. Please welcome Ruth Schiffmann.

Take it away, Ruth!

 

As a writer, I’m always relating everyday occurrences to the business of writing. So I was happy to find here at Sarah’s blog, that she does the same thing. After all, everything is more enjoyable when we can pull meaning from it.

Dogs: I love my dogs. Really, I do. But there are times when they make me want to run screaming to some place where dog breath is not the dominant fragrance and my every move isn’t measured by the speed at which they wag their tails. Each evening, when I sit down, the crinkle of the leather sofa gives me away, and they come running. After the obligatory head scratching and belly rubbing, I throw my hands up and announce that I’m done. But they continue to beg, guilt, and manipulate me with those eyes while clawing their way into my lap.

Lesson: Don’t be annoying. If I can get so easily put off with my two adorable doggies, (who I love. Really, I do) then imagine how annoying we can be to editors or agents who don’t even know us, (or how loveable we are.) When waiting to hear on a submission, the last thing I want to be is a nuisance. I assume stated response times are estimates and if a follow-up is in order, I always try to error on the side of patience.

 

Dogs: Every morning as soon as they’ve eaten, both dogs run for the door. The Portuguese Podengo is in such a hurry to get outside, that he repeatedly rams his head into the screen door in the few seconds it takes me to open it. This happens Every. Day. At this point, I’m thinking he’s brain damaged from all of that head bashing.

Lesson:  Don’t bang your head against a wall. When I’m stuck on a project, it’s pointless to make myself work on it just for the sake of working on it. Instead, I pull up another project. Even if it’s not one I’m in any hurry to finish. Even if it’s one that I’m not going to get paid for. Even if it’s just writing a post for my blog. Because getting words down on the page for something is better than bashing your head against the door, (or desk) for nothing.

 

Dogs: My dogs get antsy, prancing back and forth and perfecting their low, gravely growls, before I even hear the mail truck. They come charging down the stairs to gape at the door before I hear my daughter’s car in the driveway. They stand in the doorway to the bedroom if I’ve stayed up past my normal bedtime. Their senses are heightened and they know what’s going on, often before I do.

Lesson: Trust your instincts. Researching markets is a must, but when you’ve gathered all of the writers’ guidelines and checked the publisher’s editorial calendars, sometimes what it comes down to is an unexplainable “knowing” where to send a story or article. Develop that. Value it. And trust it.

Do you have cute, cuddly, or irritating dogs? What have they taught you about writing?

 

Ruth Schiffmann is happiest when she’s writing with her dogs quietly curled up at her feet. More than a hundred and fifty of her stories, articles, essays and poems have appeared in publications both online and in print. She’s currently working on a picture book and a contemporary YA novel. To read more of her work, visit www.RuthSchiffmann.com  or follow her blog at http://outonalimbshywritergoessocial.blogspot.com.

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22 thoughts on “3 Things My Dogs Taught Me About Writing

    1. Hi Lee,

      Oh no, I would never want to be responsible for you turning in your cat. Sarah has a great post here about everything her cats taught her about writing. Have a peek through the archives. I’m sure they’re teaching you valuable lessons all the time. You’ve just got to look for them 😉

  1. Well done, Ruth! I was wondering how you were going to tie that together, but you nailed it. Your dogs sound so sweet. We had 4 dogs before we had to move (lost our house), so now we have two. I love my dogs, but they do have some annoying bad habits!

    Thanks for hosting Ruth, Sarah!

  2. I love this, Ruth! I never thought about the lessons here, but then, we haven’t had a dog since the early 90’s. There are things that relate to writing everywhere – thanks for sharing this. Thanks to you too, Sarah, for hosting Ruth!

  3. Great post, Ruth. What have my dogs taught me about writing? Hmmm. My little dog Barnaby is afraid of everything, including bones. He whines for you to give him one, but then he is terrified to pick it up in his mouth. So he comes at it from the left, then the right, from above, then back to the left until he finds an angle that he feels is the safest one to use to pick up the bone. He’s taught me not to just give up when I have a problem with a story, but try all different angles until I find the one that works.

    My older dog, Bella, is big and when I say big, I’m just being polite—she is fat. Bella loves to eat. She would eat 24/7 if she could. When she licks the food off the plate, the plate moves across the floor, which slows her down. She figured out that if she puts one paw on the edge of the plate, it won’t move, plus it tips it up so the food slides into her mouth quicker. She still gets the same amount of food, but it’s more efficient. As a writer, being organized is key. I can spend my writing time searching for scraps of paper with notes and ideas or I can keep everything I need together so my limited time goes toward actually writing. Bella taught me that efficiency is important in eating and writing. 🙂

    And lastly, no matter if you kick dirt on it, find it stuck to your shoe, or carry it around in a cute little baggy with pictures of puppies on it, dog crap is still dog crap. Same with crap writing. If the premise is flawed or cliched, or the characters are one-dimensional, or the plot is full of holes, it doesn’t matter how pretty the book’s cover is or how big a celebrity the author is—it’s still crap.

  4. Great post, Ruth. What have my dogs taught me about writing? Hmmm. My little dog Barnaby is afraid of everything, including bones. He whines for you to give him one, but then he is terrified to pick it up in his mouth. So he comes at it from the left, then the right, from above, then back to the left until he finds an angle that he feels is the safest one to use to pick up the bone. He’s taught me not to just give up when I have a problem with a story, but try all different angles until I find the one that works.

    My older dog, Bella, is big and when I say big, I’m just being polite—she is fat. Bella loves to eat. She would eat 24/7 if she could. When she licks the food off the plate, the plate moves across the floor, which slows her down. She figured out that if she puts one paw on the edge of the plate, it won’t move, plus it tips it up so the food slides into her mouth quicker. She still gets the same amount of food, but it’s more efficient. As a writer, being organized is key. I can spend my writing time searching for scraps of paper with notes and ideas or I can keep everything I need together so my limited time goes toward actually writing. Bella taught me that efficiency is important in eating and writing. 🙂

    And lastly, no matter if you kick dirt on it, find it stuck to your shoe, or carry it around in a cute little baggy with pictures of puppies on it, dog crap is still dog crap. Same with crap writing. If the premise is flawed or cliched, or the characters are one-dimensional, or the plot is full of holes, it doesn’t matter how pretty the book’s cover is or how big a celebrity the author is—it’s still crap.

    Judy

  5. Mine help me remember to get up and go for a walk, which is often very helpful as your brain tends to unwind as you walk and come up with solutions it couldn’t while staring at the computer screen!

  6. Thank you, Sarah, for having me to your lovely blog today. It was fun to hang out here for a change. I like the scenery – all those cute animal friend doodlings make me smile =)

  7. I love the way you did that! After living with a mixture of adorable dogs and cats for many years we now have two lovely cats who are not about to tolerate a new dog in their lives [and maybe it’s just as well because I don’t want to be hurt again]. Cats are independent. Cats don’t teach you anything about writing but they do try everything in their power to stop me from doing it.

  8. I love this post, Ruth. How clever and entertaining. I do have two dogs and a cat but never thought about what they could teach me in the world of writing. They have, however, given me lots of funny stuff to PUT in a story. One thing they have taught me is to have fun and give lots of kisses and cuddles to those that I love.

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