Barking-Dog Days of the Writing Life

We have a three-year-old Golden Retriever. She’s apart of our family because my husband and I are the kind of parents who love our kids a whole lot. And so, when they begged and begged for a dog, how could we say no to five pairs of big eyes pleading with us?

Besides, we wanted to give our kids the idyllic childhood experience of living with man’s best friend. Annabelle (yes, that’s her picture with my daughter!) is a very sweet dog. The kids absolutely adore her. And she does keep my kitchen floor clean (which I appreciate).

However, having a dog isn’t all sweetness and beautiful memories. As much as we want to glamorize the childhood dog-experience, sometimes having a dog is hard work and, yes—even annoying.

On the Fourth of July we had company for a cookout on our back deck. Every time we let Annabelle outside, she’d try to sneak food off plates. But when we shut her inside the house, she’d stand at the sliding glass door and bark incessantly to be let out. As we chatted with our friends, we talked louder and tried to pretend we weren’t bothered by the dog’s noise. But in reality, the barking grated on our nerves.

We’ve learned that as much as we love our dog, she isn’t perfect. In addition to barking whenever we have company, she drags mud onto the carpet, eats boxes of candy that are left out (and I do mean literally eats the candy AND the box), digs into the garbage and litters the front yard, and lets herself in the house without closing the door.

Often we have high expectations of so many things in life—marriage, raising children, having pets, and even having a writing career. We enter into the experiences with hopes and dreams of how everything should be.

But then reality hits. We have barking-dog days, weeks, even years. We soon learn that people, pets, and professions don’t live up to our expectations. We face difficulties, disappointments, and even drudgery.

Very few things in life are truly idyllic, including the writing life.

Many writers start off with ideas of what a writer’s life should be like—hiding away in a peaceful mountaintop cabin overlooking a picture-perfect pond with the reflection of the sunset permanently embedded into it. There the prose flows endlessly, the muse knows no limits, and we write a NYT Bestseller on our first attempt. Of course we get a film deal and make millions too.

However, the truth is that a writing career has its share of annoyances like anything else. There are days when we’re tired, the words stick in our brains and refuse to reach our fingertips, our creativity is as shriveled as a moldy onion, and we’d rather dust knick-knacks than sit in front of our laptops.

It’s when we hit those less than idyllic times in writing and life that the oft-forgotten “C” word can hold us in good stead.


Yes. Commitment can help us through the tough times. When we start something, we make a conscious decision to stick with it until we finish the job, even when it is no longer fun, even when it hurts, and even when we’d like to give up.

That’s not to say we can’t look for ways to renew our joy and find fresh energy. And there will be times when we’ll have to let go of painful situations and plans altogether.

However, I’ve found that usually commitment helps me through the difficult barking dog-days—those less-than-perfect times that will haunt even the best of us. I commit to write a certain number of words every day. Or I commit to edit a specific amount of chapters. I commit to posting my blogs. I commit to seeing a book to completion.

The writing life isn’t perfect. But those writers who accept the annoyances and wrestle through them will come out further ahead in the long run.

What about you? Have you ever had any barking dog moments, where you expected the ideal but were hit with reality? What annoys you most about the writing life?


  1. Oh, you know I love a Golden Retriever! I have two!!

    What annoys me is my own self-doubt. It sometimes cripples my efforts. Self-doubt is one of those things we have to push through by... writing!! Our hard work, perseverance and, like you said, our commitment to keep moving forward helps us to push through the annoying self-doubt.

  2. I have two dogs, two English Springer Spaniels, and even though I love them until the end of the world, there are some days I yell "That's is! I've had enough! I'm getting rid of them both!". But I don't really mean it. And the same goes for my writing. When I want to throw in the towel and bellow that my work is not good enough, I just remember that I don't really mean it. Because, in fact, my life is writing. So how could one give it up? Thanks for a great post, Jody!

  3. Great thoughts this morning, Heather and Tegan! (I had a feeling fellow dog-owners would understand the analogy!) :-) I think it's always wise to postpone decisions about throwing in the towel until after the frustrating moment has passed. I always tell my kids, we won't discuss/argue about imiportant things right before bed when we're tired. We'll wait until we're calm and rational! Sometimes it really does help to get a little distance on the situation to put it into perspective.

  4. If that's your daughter - she looks exactly like you. Wow.
    And, the great point is when you realize the writing life is more than just the romantic view of it and still love it!

  5. How funny that we both posted animal-related topics this morning! Your point here is a good one. In fact, it's so close to home that I need to end my comment here. :-)

  6. We have a wonderful Irish Setter, and I completely relate to your 4th of July experience. Our dog caused a great deal of trouble at my Grandmother's 90th birthday party during the holiday weekend.

    As far as what annoys me the most about writing . . . having the ideas in my head but not being able to write them down because of family obligations. Or the opposite, my family sacrifices so I can get away for a couple hours to write, only to have my writing hit a brick wall. Why do I have the words when I can't write them and loose the words when I can? Argh!

    Please don't misunderstand, writing isn't always frustrating for me, just sometimes. It's still worth the suffering! :-)

  7. When I first started writing, I didn't want to take the time to join a writing group. That would take too much time away from my writing! And I was going to publish my book immediately, so it was unnecessary, right? Needless to say, I've had quite a few barking-dog days.

    What annoys me most about the writing life is my inconsistent self confidence/doubt. One day I believe myself to be a great writer, the next I'm terrible. Neither of those produces memorable writing. I much prefer the days when I'm somewhere in between.

  8. Great post, Jody, and great comparision story. No life experience is always all roses, you have to take some of the thorns as well. For me, it's definitely about time. Finding the time to get it all done and get it done to a level that I would consider acceptable. And the new pressures of social media on an author don't help there - they're great platforms, but they require more of your time. But you take the good with the bad and you power through it because that's just what we do. And in the end, it all turns out just fine.

  9. First of all, I'm a BIG time dog lover so this post spoke to me.

    Second, we were just away from our dog for over a week and I missed her so much. I liken that to writing. Sometimes needed breaks can help throw everything back into perspective.

    Third, I love how you continually offer a realistic view of the road ahead. You've done much to prepare me. You'll never know how much I appreciate that!

    ~ Wendy

  10. Oh, I love your dog! We have two cute little rescue doggies, and we love them to pieces. Even when they bark at horses, rabbits, frogs, you name it.

    Anyway, I didn't know what to expect with the writing life, so each day is a new discovery. I do have days where I wonder what the heck I'm doing, but I know I'm not alone in those experiences.

  11. You had me at "barking dogs." We have three goldens. Nutso. Loved you AND Rosslyn's blogs today! No wonder God gave Adam animals in the garden. I wouldn't trade mine for anything! (Y'all might like the newspaper column I wrote about mine a couple weeks ago, called "Free to a good home:"

  12. I have a cat who every once in while insists that she needs to sit on my lap; even thought my lap top is there. She gives me such dirty looks while sitting next to me that I have to laugh and take a break to love on her a little. Unless I am on a real roll with an idea I take those moments as a sign from someone that I do need a break.
    When I can't think of what I want to write next. I get up and do something else, go to the store, whatever. A fresh outlook when I come back usually helps.

    Elizabeth Loraine, author of Royal Blood Chronicles

  13. Love the analogy, Jody (even though I don't have a dog!). I have lots of barking-dog moments: self-doubt, insecurity about my writing, frustration with how slowly the whole process moves, fear that I won't have any more ideas. I could go on, I swear!

  14. Yes. I always come to your blog when I need a fresh wave of encouragement, Jody, and you don't disappoint!

  15. Great post Jody! I don't have a dog but spent the past weekend with one -your analogy hit home:-) Writing has its barking days for sure! I like your idea of focusing on one's commitment much better than expectations which often have a way of running amuck no matter what we do. Thanks!

  16. We have three dogs, including a three-year-old male Golden, Toby. Here's a pic of him:

    He's a fantastic family dog, but he's a counter surfer, and since he's so big, he doesn't have to put much effort into it.

    We also have two mini-doxie's, and they're the barkers. They run outside looking for things to bark at, and yes, it does drive me crazy.

    Having animals, especially dogs, is just like having kids. And yes, writing definitely has barking days. I struggle with self-doubt and worry about certain aspects of my novel at least twice a week.

    Great post!

  17. Thanks, Jody! Very timely--I needed that today.

  18. My barking dog writing moments are usually fixed by an "S"-- Sleep. I can spend a day working on a small section of text, only to find after a good night's Sleep, a new perspective wakes with me in the morning. And what I slogged through one day flows more easily the next.

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  20. I am having that day today. I had just tweeted about it and low and behold your tweet appeared. Just in time. I have a renewed sense of "commitment" even if the words aren't flowing....

  21. Have had lots of barking dog moments lately and I am counting on building character in the process. :)

    The thing I find most challenging about writing is maintaining self discipline. But then, this is true with anything, now isn't it?

    Have a great week! :)

  22. As a breeder, trainer and exhibitor of purebred dogs, we've lived with as many as five dogs at a time, so I can definitely relate to your analogy. Fortunately the majority of years we had Shetland Sheepdogs, and they were easy to train (plus they couldn't reach counter tops). A couple were barkers but on the whole they were very easy to live with. In the past few years our lives have been invaded by Labrador Retrievers... bigger and with much more strength and energy than the Shelties, but just as sweet natured. I've never been tempted to give up on any of our dogs, and maybe that says something about my personality, because I haven't been seriously tempted to give up on my novels either. But there *are* challenging times. Commitment is definitely the key.

  23. In my case, Jody, it's grandchildren days. I try to plan my writing around them, but inevitably something throws my plan out of whack. But, when i am able to sit down to write, i'm far more productive than I used to be. So, I had an idyllic image of how it would be to have the little ones staying with us for a few months, but of course life is not always idyllic. I work at letting go of any frustration i may feel and just enjoy my darlings while I can. They grow up way too fast.

  24. Absolutely, I've had those days. In fact, I think I have a barking dog day almost every day, because writing is never easy when you're teaching and chauffering family members around and working a "real" job, etc.

    But writing is a part of who I am; therefore, I have no choice. If I want to do it, I'm just going to have to do it, regardless of the mountain-size dog barking right behind me.

    Great post, Jody. Thanks!

    P.S. I just wrote a post similar to this, focusing more on the end result of sticking with it. You might find it interesting... (

  25. I had an advantage over many others when I embarked on my writing journey. Earlier in life I'd worked as an assistant editor for a small textbook publisher and had seen the inner workings of a publishing company. Because of that experience, I had a realistic picture of all that goes into getting a book published--from conception to release and everything in between. I'd seen how hard writers vied for the few spots we had available.

    I wasn't surprised when it took four years to receive an offer of representation from an agent and five before my first book sold. I have non-writer friends who say "Five years?" with a sense of disbelief, as though that's far longer than they imagined. When I say "five years," I tend to put the word "only" in front of the phrase because five years isn't that long in the publishing world.

    When I embarked on my journey, I knew there would be dog-days, but I trusted that determination and diligence would help me through the doubts and discouragement. They've helped, but the support of family and friends have made the most difference. I'm blessed to have so many wonderful people who've come alongside me on my journey.

  26. YES! I can relate to the dog and the writing. It helps to know it's perfectly normal to hit a slump.
    Thanks, Jody.

  27. Thanks for this! Just what I needed... :)

  28. The writing life IS my escape!! LOL Love your dog:)

  29. It helps to be a little obsessive, eh?

    When I think Goldens...I think lots of dog hair rolling across the floor. Once you get a dog that doesn't shed, you never want to go back.

  30. I'm having a barking dog day today actually, so this is great timing. :) *off to wrestle the words from my brain*

  31. Many, many 'barking days.' I blame the 90s portrayal of authors and writing though. The scruffy, unorganized writer who writes notes incessantly for future usage. That was my perspective on writing and for me it's not that far off.. ;-)

  32. Why yes... I've had MANY of those... but more importantly... I didn't know your dogs name was Annabelle!!!! *grin*


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