November seems to be the "official month of writing" with so many people participating in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). Today's Guest Blogger is Lisa Rowe Fraustino. Her newest book - The Hole In The Wall - was recently released earlier this month. Lisa has been on a blog tour sharing about her new book, answering questions, and doing guest posts. Today, she shares with us how to get in touch with our inner canine as we write.
Writing Like Cats and Dogs
Way back in 1992 a book came out that helped me learn to write like a dog, Clarissa Pinkola Estes’s Women Who Run with the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype. It comes down to this: Healthy women share certain characteristics with healthy canines.
As Estes points out, she-wolves are “relational by nature, inquiring, possessed of great endurance and strength. They are deeply intuitive, intensely concerned with their young, their mates and their pack. They are experienced in adapting to constantly changing circumstances; they are fiercely stalwart and very brave.”
If I didn’t write like a dog, The Hole in the Wall would never have received the Milkweed Prize for Children’s Literature. In fact, none of my eight books would be published. I’d have quit after the first few rejections of my “quirky” characters and “weird” storylines. If by some miracle I made it past early rejections to publication, the first nasty review I got would have caused me to quit writing and take up something safer, like skydiving.
Embracing your inner…hm…let’s call it “female dog” allows you to unleash your creativity and have the confidence to express your idiosyncracies, your uniqueness, your truest self—even though the rest of the world may look upon your creations with the scorn of a cat who has been fed the store brand, dry.
Your inner canine is the part of you that says, “I don’t care what anyone else says. I have something to say and I’m going to say it.” Like the dog who keeps standing at the window barking even though people keep telling her to lie down and be quiet, you keep on writing joyfully despite rejections slips and bad reviews.
Writers who nurture their inner canines don’t get blocked for long. Why? Because blocks derive from fears—fears of being laughed at, of being criticized, of being wrong. No offense to cat lovers—I enjoy cats too. Have four of them, in fact. But there’s a big difference between doggy and catty when it comes to self-expression and interpersonal dynamics.
The dog instinctively protects her territory and is incapable of spite. The cat…well. You know. She likes to play head games. Especially with her food.
Dogs aren’t self-conscious. They don’t worry about whether they’re doing something right or whether they will be loved. They go about their business cheerfully sniffing butts and marking bushes and licking themselves no matter how many times prissy humans scold them. And they chase off cats who nip at their confidence.
By all means love your cat— but write like a dog.
Exercises to Develop Your Inner Canine
1.Think of a time when others told you to stop singing, dancing, or otherwise expressing yourself because you were embarrassing them. Write the experience into your next story or chapter.
2. Do something you’ve always wanted to do but never dared because of the reactions of other people—like, cut your hair really short, or paint your front door purple.
3. You know that incredible family story that you’ve been waiting to work on someday…after a lot of funerals? Sit down and write it: now. Heavily fictionalize it if you’re still too timid to go for the memoir.
4. Think of something you’ve done of which you carry a deep sense of secret shame. Let it out of your body. Write it down. Burn the pages in your spaghetti pot, then rewrite the story as fiction.
5. Go out and howl at the next full moon.
Today’s topic: “The Golden Rule of Criticism”