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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.

Commitment.

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?


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