I’m glad our quote this week isn’t, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” Mom has been teaching me a new trick for a few days now. I’d hate to think she’s just banging her head against the wall with it.
She wants me to learn to stand on a little bench so when we visit the VA, my wheelchair friends will be able to reach me better. (Also, Mom won’t have to pick me up 859 times because apparently I am a fat, overgrown meatloaf, and I’m breaking her back.)
So I study.
Just like I studied my IQ treat hider.
And I practice.
Just like I practiced bowling.
And I’m learning.
Just like I learned to fly a plane.*
*Not an actual plane. And I’m not actually flying.
Next week, Mom will also be learning. She will be attending a webinar called The Heart of Picture Books where she will learn a new trick.
She will learn to have more heart in her writing. #olddognewtrickforsure Stories with heart are more likely to connect with readers and agents and editors. Heart is good in stories. Also in real life. Heart is good everywhere.
Learning is good everywhere, too. Even old dogs can learn new tricks.
Mom’s mom would’ve been my Grammy if I had every met her. I never did.
I know her through Mom, though. My Grammy worked hard at a sewing factory, but was a teacher at heart. AND she was a storyteller. Like Mom, she would never say 5 words if she could say 50. Every story was a loooong story. She always had something to say and always said it with joy and excitement and gusto and loved the whole process of weaving a tale and watching her audience react to it. They really are a lot alike.
Sometimes, people say, “To make a long story short….” Mom never says that. And she never does that. She is more likely to make a long story longer!
Mom is a writer because she writes her stories down while she’s weaving them. Grammy never had that luxury, although she did tell stories in the letters she wrote. So Mom has heard and read many, many stories since she was a little girl. Storytelling is in her blood and her skin and her bones. And in her fingers, because that’s where the stories come from as far as I can see.
I don’t have fingers, but once I made a “story” when I fell asleep on Mom’s iPad and typed QQQQQ with my ear.
Storytelling also came from Mom’s mom and her mom’s story and the tapestry of how they came together and grew and flourished and continued and will continue forever. Meanwhile, long after my Grammy and Mom jig-sawed their stories together, my own doggy mama taught me to survive as a stray
Me at the shelter with my puppies.
on the mean streets till I could be rescued, fostered, and then FINALLY adopted by Mom. My doggy mama’s lessons are where my story began.
First day at my forever home.
Queen of the world. My story continues…
Don’t think. Thinking is the enemy of creativity. It’s self-conscious and anything self-conscious is lousy. You can’t try to do things. You simply must do things.
Thinking is SO overrated. I avoid it at all costs. Mom asks me “What were you thinking?” all the time. I try to tell her, “Nuthin'” but I’m not sure she understands. What is she thinking I’m thinking? She needs to stop thinking.
Head caught in a shopping bag?
Too close to the edge?
It’s really pretty simple, actually. Don’t think. Just do.
Mom is doing things these days, too. Just doing. Not thinking. She’s partway through a new story and partway through a new poem. And she submitted a couple of things last week, too. She found them in the computer, fixed them up all shiny and new and sent them on their way out into the world for people to judge. She will do the same when she gets to the end of her latest story and poem. First she will make sure there’s enough conflict and a surprise ending twist. Then off they go. Not thinking is fun.
Except when you head face first into the sticker bush by the lake….
Ouch. Not fun…
Mom has been looking up at the stars a lot lately.
She imagines getting her next acceptance letter/email/phone call/telepathic message. She visualizes how it will play out and exactly how it will feel.
When a rejection comes instead, she visualizes the acceptance even harder.
Meanwhile, she reads, writes, revises, edits, critiques, and submits. She has to. That’s what writers do.
…in between playing with the peppermint ball…
I look up at the stars, too. I don’t imagine anything or visualize anything – or read or write or edit or critique or submit anything. I just look at the stars or stare at the air. Mom says, “Are you daydreaming?” and “Are you sightseeing?” and “Enough, weirdo! We’re going home!”
She is long on patience waiting for Book #2 to be accepted, but short on patience waiting for me. When she gets publisher mail, she says, “This is it!” When I am star gazing, she says, “That is it!” They are really very different…
Mom and I agree on one thing. Stephen Hawking was a pretty smart guy. Keeping your head up and your eye on the prize matters. Aiming for the stars is never a bad idea. And when you can’t take time to smell the flowers
because the flowers are sleeping under the snow, keep your head up. Stare at the air. Or look up at the stars!
Mom and I are connected. Wherever she is, that’s where I am. Our connection is strong. Sometimes she leaves me behind and goes out without me. In that case, I am just sad and waiting for her to come back to me. …But I still feel connected.
Mom has been working with some of her new story ideas. She is trying to get some of them to connect to each other. Putting a random character into a random setting is always fun, so Mom does that a lot. Walking them into a problem and then getting them to struggle their way to a creative solution is also fun, but more difficult.
I have been stuck in some situations now and then, myself. Sometimes, I can get myself out, but sometimes, I straight-up need help.
Strange doggie staring at me. Stay strong.
Opening the treat drawer – Wait for Mom to help.
Hat falling off…
Stuck under the bed…
Settle in for the long haul.
Lost a shoe – cross your paws that it’s never found…
FYI – It’s ALWAYS found…
Caught in the soccer net – “MOM!”
Only the hand that erases can write the true thing.
Erasing is easy when you’re a writer who uses the computer. Mom is all Tap. Tap. Tap.
And bingo, things she doesn’t want in her story are gone for good. And replaced by something better. It’s important that writers don’t get too attached to the words they write because anything may need to go at any given time.
Some of Mom’s critique partners thought one part of her latest story was too mean for little kids. Mom took a deep breath and erased two whole paragraphs of meanness. Now the story is nicer.
Being nice is…. um… nice!
Mom had to erase our balcony flowers already.
They’ve been replaced with something better (and more alive).
I’m glad erasing can’t happen to me. I’d have been gone for good a long time ago. Mom might have replaced me with a better doggie! Whenever she brushes me, she says, “Now you look pretty.” and “Maybe you’ll stop shedding all over the place.” and “I’m going to make a new dog out of all this hair and THROW YOU IN THE GARBAGE.” Gah! She can’t do that. Can she…?
Mom has to erase my furs from the floor and rugs all the time. Also my drool.
And crumbs. And the spit marks I make when I lick the floor.
I don’t mind when she erases them. I can always make more.
“An idea that is developed and put into action is more important than an idea that exists only as an idea.”
Ideas are funny. They pop up and drift away in an instant. Mom captures them as best she can by typing them into her phone. At writing time, if she’s not in the middle of a piece of work, she checks that phone list and picks an idea or two to start working on. She mixes and matches and puts things together to make a fun bundle-up of ideas. She gets ideas from being around kids, listening to conversations, looking at blogs, watching TV, reading picture books, walking around the complex, and taking me to the park.
I get a lot of ideas, too. Some of my favorites are…
Play the piano with my face.
Investigate the soccer net.
Eat my coat.
Hesitate a few seconds too long in the doorway so the door slams on my tail and a piece of it breaks off.
Taste the new shrubs.
Kill my toy monkey who’s been asking for it lately.
I would like to remember my ideas, but I don’t have a phone to list them. Plus Mom says the word, “Forget it” a lot, so I guess she doesn’t want me to remember them in a list like hers. I get my ideas from snoozing,
and walking in the park.
Buddha has the right idea about ideas. Having them is just the beginning. The fun comes when you put them into action.