We recently adopted a rescue puppy from Wish Animal Rescue, and for the first time since I was a kid, I’m sharing my life with a pooch. It’s terrific.
I expected the joy of seeing my kids learn to love and care for a dog.
What I didn’t expect is that this floppy-eared creature could teach me so much about my job.
So here it is.
Ten things my puppy taught me about freelance writing:
1) Enthusiasm is everything.
Sherp loves to meet new people, she loves to eat, she loves to walk, she loves to greet. She loves to jump, she loves to snuggle, she loves to wake up in the morning and she can’t wait to dive in to the day. How bloody refreshing is that! And what a great example. I just look at her tail, and approach my working day in the same way.
2) Walking keeps you healthy and helps with ideas.
Let’s face it: good writers spend most of the day sitting on their bum, lifting fingers and cups of tea. This is essential to success, but so is brain-clearing exercise and blood-flow. I walk Sherpa a couple of times a day and my mind has never felt so clear.
3) Dog parks are a great place to meet new friends and hear new stories.
If you ever want instant access to an entirely new and friendly group of people, take your dog to the local dog park. At the dog park I meet and chat with people I’d never ordinarily strike up a conversation with. And I hear stories – fabulous stories – that spark my imagination and make me happy.
4) When you need a break, it’s okay to roll over and stretch in the sun.
You can’t work and work and work and expect to produce great results all day long. Sometimes just 30 seconds outside, with my hands held high in the air, is enough to refill my supply of energy and creativity. Sherp prefers half-an-hour, and that’s okay too.
5) Pee breaks are a great opportunity to stretch-and-sip.
Sherp takes every chance for a stretch. She’s reminded me that stretching is one of life’s unsung pleasures, and pee breaks – before and after – present an important stretching opportunity. While you’re at it, take a sip of something hydrating. It’s good for you, and before you know it, it’ll be time for another pee break.
6) Poo stinks.
There’s no arguing here. No one likes it, and no one looks pretty doing it, but it has to be done. So, if there’s poo in your day, get it over with. Pick it up, seal it off, throw it away. Then stick your tail in the air and get on with the rest of your glorious day.
7) Run for the ball, bring it back: repetition has its place.
I adore variety, creativity and freedom. But repetition can also have its place. Paying bills, writing invoices, formatting pages… Sometimes, and especially when I’m tired, repetition can be comforting and even healing. It can even be fun. Ball, ball. Bill, bill.
8) Boundaries and rules are important.
You’re allowed on the red couch, but not the brown couch. You can dig in the sandpit, but not in the garden. Rules are important because they build healthy habits. And healthy freelancing habits lead to a healthier, wealthier freelance writers. So set yourself some rules for what you’re going to achieve in your day: finish this project before answering those emails; make these phone calls before having that coffee. And stick to the rules.
9) Life on the lead isn’t all bad.
A freelance dog can walk to the park whenever it wants. It can eat whenever it likes and whatever it can hunt. It can even wear its pajamas to work. And it loves this. But life on the lead isn’t so bad either. Reliable food, people by your side, some predictability in your day… In my career I’ve been lucky enough to have a balance of both, and I think this mix really works.
10) Love is unconditional.
Sherp doesn’t care how many times my manuscripts are sent back for editing, or how many pitches are rejected in a row. She cares about ear tickling, tummy rubbing and long walks on the beach. And isn’t that what life is all about? So even if I’m all tied in knots about something in my day, when Sherp comes to settle at my feet, I just reach down to tickle her soft too-much-skin puppy head. And voila! A moment of peace. How magic is that!
So hooray for dogs and hooray for the beautiful people who rescue and foster them.
And remember: dogs are not just for freelancing….although they do help, a lot!