5 lessons I’ve learnt about writing from my dog

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5 writing tips i've learnt from my dog

Since Brielle’s come into my world she’s taught me a whole lot about life and in the process I’ve learnt some really important lessons about writing. Here are five of Brielle’s writing tips you can start applying to your work today.

#1 Perseverance

Golden retriever in the park

Food is to Brielle what writing is to me and when it comes to her passion, perseverance is one of her best qualities. Whether she’s searching, begging or eating, Brielle always puts in 110% and no obstacle can stand in her way. I mean I’ve seen her jump a fence for a salad sandwich someone dropped and in all other circumstances, Brielle does not jump anything.

When you decide to become a writer you need perseverance too. This quote from painter and photographer Chuck Close pretty much sums it up:

“Inspiration is for amateurs. The rest of us just show up and get to work. If you wait around for the clouds to part and a bolt of lightening to strike you in the brain, you are not going to make an awful lot of work. All the best ideas come out of the process; they come out of the work itself.” 

No matter what you’re writing – whether it’s a blog, a collection of essays, poems, a novel, a script, a screenplay or anything else – there are no shortcuts. To get it done you have to put the in hours writing, editing and revising.

And then there comes the rejection.

It’s become part of literary folk law that Lionel Shriver’s novel, We Need to Talk About Kevin was widely rejected by both literary agents and publishers only to eventually top best-seller lists and become a critically acclaimed film. But what would have happened if the author had given up? The answer to that is nothing.

Any writer who puts their work out there is going to get rejected. And not just by industry professionals but by the general public. There’s always going to be that person who gives you one star on Goodreads with a review that simply reads ‘Blech’ or a YouTube troll who comments on your video saying they only subscribed so they could unsubscribe.

Yeah it’s horrible but you need to remember that there are also a lot of people loving the content you’re putting out there and the thing that’s going to keep you going is persistence.

#2 Don’t leave things to the last minute

goldie and goldie puppy

I’m not sure if it’s the thrill of waiting until a deadline’s looming or whether we work better under pressure – but most writers I know have got procrastination down to an art form.

Brielle however has taught me not to wait till the last minute to get my writing done. You just never know when she’s going to uncover a dead cat carcass and roll on it so I’ve got to spend the rest of the afternoon washing, drying and de-odorising her before pulling an all nighter to get my copy in on time.


#3 Trust your instincts

Golden retriever on the beach
Brielle has amazing instincts and yes, sometimes these lead her to roll on dead cats, but mostly she uses her powers for good. She always knows exactly how I’m feeling, she can sniff out anything edible which would be extremely useful in the event of a zombie apocalypse and she’s even barked her head off to get Business Slayer’s attention when I’ve fainted.

Just like Brielle, writers need to trust their instincts too.

When I’m drafting a piece of writing I very rarely manipulate it in a conscious way. Of course I usually start out with an idea of where it’s going or a point I’m trying to make, but the actual writing process, for me and most other writers I know, is fairly organic.

SEE ALSO: How you can free yourself with freewriting and create a creative compost heap

When writing, rather than relying on how I should structure something I rely on my gut instinct. This usually leads me to explore topics I would never have thought about had I not sat down and just started writing.

It’s my gut instinct which helps me to do things like:

  • Kill my darlings
  • Explore topics that may go against societal norms
  • To keep going even when I want to quit because deep inside I know this is my talent


#4 Don’t be afraid to get dirty

Goldie rolling in the mud

Brielle has a few favourite things in life and one of them is rolling in mud or anything that would be listed under disgusting in the dictionary. And when it comes to writing, all good writers must also get down and dirty – so to speak.

What I mean by this is that as writers, we often have to explore things that broader society aren’t comfortable with. Let’s go back to the Lionel Shriver example. Part of the reason We Need to Talk About Kevin was widely rejected was because it was dealing with something society found hard to swallow – a mother who didn’t like her son, a violent boy who had no capacity for empathy. But these were also the qualities of the book that gave it brilliance.

No matter what you’re writing if you’re true to your instincts, chances are some pretty dark or simply taboo topics are going to flow out from your fingertips. Let them because they’re real. Because they happen. Because they’re part of life.


#5 Get outside and have a break

goldie at the beach

One of the best things Brielle does for me is force me to get outside everyday, be it rain, hail or shine. She helps me remember I need to have a work life balance so I can be more productive.

Most of the time I’m pretty much glued to my laptop, sometimes sitting in front of a writing problem for ages – knowing it’s there but not being able to see what it is. This is pretty common and most writers agree that you become blind when it comes to your own work. The best thing to do when this happens is to leave it for a while and then come back to it with fresh eyes. And I find there’s no better way to clear my head than by taking a walk with my best friend.

Is there an animal in your life who’s taught you any lessons about writing? Let us know in the comments.

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