Monday, April 4, 2011

I am that dog

Yes, that's right.

Everyone has seen that one dog in the park who is chasing a ball or frisbee with such single-minded devotion that you can't help but laugh. Maybe you even feel better about yourself because it reminds you that humans are so much smarter than a silly dog running after a hunk of dirty rubber.

Today, while emailing back and forth with another writer friend, I hit a zen-like state when I realized, and accepted, that I am that dog.

We were talking about a story she is working on and I confessed to her that I was biting my lip to avoid bombarding her with a tidal wave of questions. She laughed and asked why... and then this was my response (edited for length, and yes my grammar is usually that horrible in emails):
YOU know what i'm like... when i get my teeth into something i get so enthusiastic it's like wrestling a bone from the mouth of a starving dog.

so, basically, i don't want to ask something, then ask more and more and more... and you're like, 'stop! i'm not even there yet!!' and get all panicky 'cause i'm asking you about the inner-workings of things that you've just barely scratched the surface of yourself...

'cause i don't know how to stop... now you will forever visualize me as a stupid dog that is so set on chasing a tennis ball that it runs itself to exhaustion... so just be warned that if you throw me a bone, you're going to end up with a lot of slobber on your hands.
So yes, I am that dog...

When I find something interested, I devour it. I tug, tear and shake it until there are pieces everywhere. I want to know everything about how it works, why it works and if there's something I can do to make it even better.

I could run with this and joke about how we humans choose to stay in jobs we hate so we can chase after that next meagre bonus, useless paper award or the promise of two extra vacation days when we hit five years of employment, but to be honest, that would be getting away from the point of writing this blog.

In that eureka-like moment of acceptance, I was stunned by the fact that I don't mind being that dog in the park. In addition, realizing that the off-hand confession to my writer friend was long overdue and probably the most honest thing I've said about myself in years. I think I generally come off as a calm and laid-back kind of person, but when I find something new that I'm interested in, that persona flies far, far away. In the last couple of years, the members of my writing group have seen that side of me, and it's something I've always been a little embarrassed about. Losing my cool in front of others. I try to control myself, to hold back, but it's oh so hard when they hand over a shiny new story. I can't help but just tear into it to find out who the characters are and why they are behaving the way that they do.

But I've been thinking today that maybe it's okay to be that dog. 

As a reader, one indulges in the characters and learns about their motivations and their interests, but that is a passive experience. A writer is on the opposite end of the spectrum, convincing readers of the legitimacy of their characters through the actions and reactions, innate preferences and hypocritical or selfish desires. To be an editor (or a beta reader) is a complicated marriage of the two where you have to weigh what you want as a reader, against what the writer wants, then once again against what the story wants (or demands). 

As someone who loves both reading and writing, I want to show the same respect to my writer friends as I would like them to give me. I want to honestly and enthusiastically support their work without it coming across as either flattery or unjustified criticism. I want to continue to chase that ball or frisbee for as long as they have the energy to throw it.

As a person who wants to grow, I'd like to expand my own little world by seeking out others with enthusiasm for the same kinds of things that interest me and I want to know more about things I have yet to learn about. Hence this blog, my first adventure online.

All that is good, but as for right now, I think I'll start chewing on the bone that my writer friend threw me. I say she's had fair warning that there's going to be slobber.

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Type me out a line of Shakespeare or a line of nonsense. Dumb-blonde-jokes & Irish jokes will make me laugh myself silly :)