Last week, the brilliant Lisa Sell posted Lessons in ‘Kitten’ on her blog. Like all Lisa’s posts, it was funny, honest and quite brilliant. It also made me think. I’m a dog person, myself. I like cats. But my dogs really, really don’t. I started to think about Lisa’s post regarding her new kitten Feegle and how he is helping her through her depression and inspiring her writing habits at the same time. The more I thought about it, the more I realised that my dogs have also had a massive impact on my writing life. So, I decided to write a post in response!
Dogs Can Change Your Direction
For me, they quite literally did. For five years I was a childminder by profession. For eight years I’d been a mother to three small children. There was simply no time in my life for writing, and very little time for reading. We went through a bad period. We lost two homes and my husband lost two jobs. We felt cursed and helpless and guilty. My reaction? I got a dog. I got a dog because I needed something that was just for me. I’d always been dog obsessed, in fact the first books and stories I ever wrote as a child were always about dogs. Funnily enough, although we brought this little chap Skipper home in the most uncertain period of our lives, everything changed for the better after that. We found a house to rent. Semi-rural, massive garden, a river running past it, fields behind, woods beyond. It was like a dream come true. And then one day while out walking my new baby I had a revelation. I would give up childminding and take up dog walking instead. And I would go back to my writing. And…I did! So it’s kind of thanks to Skipper that I can now call myself a proper writer.
One Is Never Enough…
Yep, you guessed it, one was not enough. Dogs are addictive. I might be biased but I happen to think lurchers in particular are incredibly addictive! After I fell in love with my big boy Skipper, I started fostering dogs for a local dog rescue, and not long after that this scruffy little wretch arrived on our doorstep. I totally did not mean to fall in love with Tinkerbelle but she was always going to steal our hearts. She fitted right in. At this point in my life I felt like I was living the dreams I had chosen in childhood. I was working with animals and writing. Perfect.
Dogs Force You Out Of Your Bubble
Like a lot of writes, I’m an introvert at heart. I love nothing more than snuggling up with a good book, staying home and putting on music, writing for hours or losing myself in gardening. If it were not for my dogs who expect their walkies at the same time twice a day, I could quite easily shut the world out and ignore its existence. I could easily do the same with the human race. But dogs don’t let you do this. They force you outside, they force you to go to new places. They encourage interaction with other people and other dogs. For this reason, writers need dogs!
Dogs Are Therapeutic In So Many Ways…
No offence cat people (I have loved cats before!!) but there is nothing quite like the love of a dog. They don’t just love you, they adore you. You are their world! They throw themselves at you when you come home. Their little faces watch you out the window when you leave. They want to please you, they want you to be happy! Dogs are happiness! And they can teach us to be happy too. They yearn the simple things in life. A comfy bed (preferably yours, or the sofa will suffice) Good food, (again, yours is better, and with lurchers anything left in counter-surfing reach is fair game, including rubbish bags) Playtime and sleep time. Easy. Unlike children, dogs are grateful for everything! They also seem to know when you are feeling down. Just stroking a dog can bring your heart rate down and help you to feel less stressed. Not to mention how therapeutic walking is. (Bit less so when they disappear after deer on the horizon, but that’s besides the point) They make you exercise, they make you talk to people, they make you care.
Dogs Accept Us The Way We Are
One of the best things about dogs is that they like you just the way you are. They don’t care if you are fat, thin, attractive, ugly, able bodied or disabled, straight or gay, old or young, black or white. They couldn’t care less! They also don’t mind your character flaws. When I’ve had a bad day or felt misunderstood or judged, it’s my dogs I long to be with. Just one walk across the beautiful common with my hounds and I’m soon all right again. I often talk to them while I’m walking. Tinks will skip ahead, doing her own thing, acting crazy, but Skipper will walk right by me, as if he is listening to every word. I’ll talk about my day, what was good, what was bad, and I’ll talk about my writing.
Dogs Help Me Write!
Yes, they really do. For all the reasons listed above and because walking them, being out in the open with them, close to nature and away from people, is where all my inspiration hits. It always happens on dog walks. New ideas that spring out of nowhere, (including several of my novels and future novels!) Characters start chatting to me, giving me conversations to steer their story forward. Loose ends tie up. I get massive revelations when out with my dogs. Something I’ve been struggling with for weeks will suddenly come together and make sense. I’ll get story ideas from the landscape and from the dogs themselves. I don’t think I’d get so many ideas without them! I always come back with a massive smile on my face, desperate to find my notebook so I can scribble down my ideas before I forget them. Or I’ll tap them into my phone while walking. So many of my blog posts have been drafted in rough form on my phone while out walking the dogs!
They’re in all my books!
Not my dogs exactly, (although that is my gorgeous Tinks immortalised by the brilliant Justine Pateman, on the front cover of This Is Nowhere) but dogs in general. All of my books have dogs in them! The Mess Of Me has bat-eared cross-breed Gremlin, Lou’s ever faithful sidekick. The Boy With The Thorn In His Side and This Is The Day have Danny’s adored Jack Russel, Kurt. This Is Nowhere has beautiful lurchers, Chase and Dash. And as for future books, The Tree of Rebels has a ball obsessed cross-breed called Charlie, and dear Elliot, from Elliot Pie’s Guide To Human Nature has a Staffordshire Bull Terrier called Tizer. I just can’t seem to write a book without making a dog a character in it.
Writers Need Dogs!
For all these reasons, I think dogs make the perfect companion, muse and inspiration for writers. They get you out of your introverted bubble, out into the world and interacting with other humans. Exercise and just simply stroking and being with them releases endorphins, making you feel better and less anxious. They keep your feet warm when you’re writing, and snuggle up with you on the sofa when you are reading. They also make fantastic characters in books!
I need to say another massive thank you to Lisa Sell for inspiring me to write this post and being cool about me responding to hers!
So how about you? Are you a dog person or a cat person? How do they help you or inspire you? Please feel free to comment!