Anyone who has even glanced at this blog as they click through on their way somewhere else, will have noticed that I have two rather precious creatures in my life. I suppose this would be three if we were to count the husband, but let’s stick to those with four legs. The first (because I adopted her first, not because she is my favourite) has been affectionately nicknamed CWA, which stands for ‘Cat With Attitude.’ She could also be nicknamed ‘Cat With Mental Health Problems,’ but that’s not nearly as catchy. The second, adopted from a wonderful charity called Accolade Hounds, is Bat Dog the Lurcher. Bat Dog and CWA are my companions, confidents, friends, sounding boards and playmates. In fact, they make ideal writing aids and here are four reasons why:
1. Animals don’t judge you. When you’re struggling with a bit of dialogue that you just can’t get quite right: read it out loud. Hearing it and speaking it will highlight anything that sounds too formal or unrealistic. If you do this in front of your dog, she will look at you lovingly as though you are reciting a new work of Shakespeare. Your cat will probably ignore you and sleep some more. Either way, you will not be judged.
2. Talking to yourself is weird; talking to animals is okay. Writing involves spending a lot of time in your own brain. It also involves a lot of time alone. You have no colleagues, no lunch breaks, and no one to gossip with about last night’s Eastenders. This can lead to you wondering around the house, muttering to yourself and asking how your own day has been. If you have animals, at least there will be another living, breathing, creature in the room for you to talk to. Dogs in particular are quite good at reading emotions. For example, if I’m excited and think I’ve just had a great idea, I say to Bat Dog, “Hey, guess what?!” In response to which, she promptly jumps up, grabs a tennis ball and wiggles her bum, and I can convince myself she agrees with me that my idea is awesome. Cats are less intuitive and will probably only respond if you’re standing next to their food bowl when you have your idea. But, occasionally, the CWA will come and sit on something I’ve written. Whether this is a good or a bad thing, I have no idea.
3. Distractions can be productive.
Some people say that writers block doesn’t exist, but I truly believe it does. I’ll cover it in more detail next week but, to summarise, sometimes you need to get out of your own head and come back later. As long as you’re not deliberately distracting yourself every few minutes – CWA’s fluffy white belly is tantalisingly distracting sometimes – animals are a fantastic block-busting device. In fact, a lot of my problems are solved when walking Bat Dog. If you're stuck drumming your fingers against your skull, willing a sentence to form, going for a walk and having time to think away from the computer, in the fresh air, can work wonders.
4. You have a ready-made fan.
As I said above, animals do not judge you. Cats are less effusive, but I’m pretty sure your dog will love you no matter what you do. In fact, more than that, your dog thinks you are amazing. The best thing since sliced bread. Close to godliness. Try and see yourself through your dog’s eyes every time you need a morale boost.