We writers love to talk about finding our literary voice (good piece on that here), along with our favorite tropes, motifs, and images. Basically…stuff we know.
We’ve all heard the “write what you know” advice, often attributed to ol’ Papa Hemingway. What he really said (and more Hemingway writing advice here):
Write about what you know and write truly and tell them all where they can place it…Books should be about the people you know, that you love and hate, not about the people you study about.
So, we read, travel, meet, live, repeat, and read some more–to amass the places, people, and ideas that we know fully, that become an integral part of us. So much so that these places, people, and ideas pop up in our writing as setting, characters, tropes and all those other fun literary terms.
All that’s to say that our writerly voice and our place in the world (weekly photo challenge) go hand-in-hand. For me, the way to discovering my literary voice–my place on the page (definitely still a work in progress)–and my place in the world are parallel journeys. And both follow water.
They say the apple doesn’t fall far… My dad, a lifelong Lake Erie boater, went around the world’s waterways as a young man in the Navy and still didn’t get enough of the stuff. Being landlocked makes him itchy. (Here he is on his 1942 Lyman he restored himself.) I suppose I inherited some of his itch.
From the Great Lake of my girlhood to the river I’m on now (header photo)–water makes its way into much of my creative writing. Not only as setting and a handy trope, but I’m interested in water’s relationship with our human bodies (which are so much water!), and I wish I could fish and swim and dive with an expert’s ease. And there’s where I write what I don’t know, because I want to know more.
This summer I will do more to know more to write more. How’s that? And I’ll do it in a dinghy! Yep, we bought a dinghy–my little family’s first foray onto the water.
Does your place in the world inform your place on the page? I’d love to hear about it and to see pics!
No. 10 on the list: get a cat, from writer Muriel Spark (or, a character of hers, anyway) who says:
If you want to concentrate deeply on some problem, and especially on some piece of writing or paper-work, you should acquire a cat.
Amen, says this writer, who admires the clean and aloof companionship provided by a cat. One better: I could do more than acquire a cat (or cats, as I have in the past); I could steep myself in the literature of cats, of which there is plenty. Here, from bibliophile blogger Bookish Beck, would be a good place to start.
Instead, I must delve into the world of dog. Why?
Because, people, I am about to be overthrown. Yes, this cat-lover is on the cusp of acquiring a dog.
And so, at a time when other people might be researching breeds or stocking up on carpet cleaner or dog chow… When others might be drawing up a contract to divvy the responsibilities between one Rust Belt Girl and the men with whom she shares a household–one regular and two pint-sized… I’m doing what I’ve always done to confront a problem.
Stare it down? Address it head on? (Have we met?)
I read around it.
D-O-G. Sounds simple enough, right? Feeding, caring, sheltering. I mean, I have done this before. As a kid, my family in Ohio had a beagle mix named Anne (after my best friend–sorry, friend). But Anne was an “outside dog” with a dog house. Before you start to worry, yes, she was allowed in the house on snowy days and nights. But no one would have thought for a second to let her onto the couch much less into a bed.
However, my current cohabitants don’t want an outside dog; they want a new member of the family. And a puppy at that.
And so…I delve into the literary world of the dog, which, I have to say is much more playful than that of the cat. Not better, just very different.
There’s a lot of outside–away from writing implements–that happens with dogs in print (and on screen). Here on WordPress, one blogger finds her faith strengthened on hikes with her dog, Belle, a Border Collie mix. Another blogger, at Poppy Walks the Dog, does just that with his Japanese Chin, Mimsy. Meet her here.
Poppy provides the upside to the supposed downside of severing oneself from the current WIP (chapters 1 and 2 revised, only 16 more to go, if you’re following), poop bag in hand to walk around the block:
Ambling yields the real benefit to these walks. Time. Time to think. Time to contemplate the news and social media that I left behind in the house. Time to remember and reflect on friends and family.
Time. Remember that thing? Could it be that I might find more time–more head space to create–by acquiring and walking a dog?
The reflecting on family part sounds especially intriguing. After all, this dog will be a joint responsibility, right? Right?
And so the reading around the dog question hasn’t stopped with me. Together, my boys and I listened to and loved the audio version of One Dog and His Boy, a “canine classic,” according to this review.
And then, in the middle of my reading of Bonnie Jo Campbell‘s latest story collection, Mothers, Tell Your Daughters, I met Roscoe, a stray dog who arrives at the home of a pregnant woman who decides to take him in:
…here was a living, breathing creature who needed me now, and in my fifth month, maybe my hormones were talking, too.
Or maybe those hormones were screaming, as the pregnant protagonist comes to believe that Roscoe is her late, handsome, philandering fiance, Oscar, come back to life as a twenty-pound mutt. The story is a wonder of intelligence and, well, wonder: mystery.
So, that’s where I am in my literary dog journey preceding my actual dog journey. Can’t say I’m not a planner–if only in (literary) theory.
Do you have a cat muse? A dog muse? Help a girl out here. I need advice.
Closing with the literary cliche that isn’t: a boy (mine) and a dog (neighbor’s). Stay tuned… ~ Rebecca