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Creativity coach, writing and creative process instructor, speaker, author of Around the Writer's Block: Using Brain Science to Write the Way You Want (Penguin/Tarcher 2012) and Dancing in the Dragon's Den (Red Wheel Weiser), Teaching Artist at the Loft Literary Center.

Why Dogs Make Us Better Writers

One year ago today, I said goodbye to Blue, aka Boo Boo Blue, Princess Abooboo, Bluester and so many more silly names.

Grief fades, love endures.

And yet, all I have to give you in a post today is a reminder (repost) of why opening yourself to this kind of grief is essential for writers.

For fourteen and a half years, my dog Blue was my… there really aren’t words to describe what a dog can be to a human. Someday maybe I’ll give it a go. (Nope, it’s a year later and I’m still not ready or writer enough to describe it.)

The best I can do today is that Blue was my heart. Not my whole heart, because there are many others I love, but a bigger part of my heart than anyone who hasn’t loved a dog and remained this side of the rainbow bridge while part of your heart crosses over can understand.

If you’ve felt this grief, you know. If you haven’t, you need to. You will be a better writer, and a better human being, if you open yourself to this kind of pain and joy.

Dogs break our hearts — they break our hearts wide open. Leonard Cohen said it best.

I wrote and posted these Top Ten Reasons Writers Need a Dog years ago. Blue was all these and so much more…

1.  Dogs remind us to play. Especially as puppies, dogs know that play is the best way to explore the world. If you need a reminder, here’s why writers need to play.

2.  Training a dog gives you practical lessons in how to reward and motivate yourself to keep writing.

dogs take us for walks3.  A dog will take you for a walk everyday. Walking is an outstanding way to move yourself out of writing resistance.

4.  Dogs are excellent listeners. Just as therapy dogs in schools help kids learn how to read better, reading what you’re working on to a dog can help you write better.

dogs never criticize5.  Dogs never criticize your writing.

6.  Dogs require consistency and a regular schedule of potty breaks, feeding times, exercise, play and rest. Essayist and artist Jean Cook observes, “When I’m really absorbed in what I’m writing or editing and losing track of time, Luci reminds me to take a break to feed her dinner, and to have some myself.”

dogs teach us to live in the present7.  Dogs teach us Zen. Balancing the regularity in #6 with the flexibility to live in the present moment is a great antidote to writing resistance, which thrives in the extremes of chaotic, inconsistent environments on the one hand and rigid, overscheduled, overcommitted situations on the other hand.

8.  Dogs remind us when it’s time to stop working. If I try to sneak in extra time in my office in the evenings, Blue always shows up with a tennis ball and insists I play with her instead.

dogs show when and how to nap9.  Dogs are great role models for napping. Dogs sleep about 16 hours a day, which might be excessive for humans, but it’s a step in the right direction for many of us. Sleep deprivation interferes with creativity and causes writer’s block. On the other hand, really creative people tend to be great nappers (Leonardo Da Vinci, Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, Eleanor Roosevelt are prime examples). Napping has been shown to increase creative thinking.

dogs keep us young10.  Dogs keep us young. As dogs evolved from wolves, they adapted to live and partner with humans. One of the adaptations was developing “neoteny,” the tendency to retain juvenile characteristics into adulthood. Dogs are wolf pups that never really grow up. As dogs evolved to live with humans, humans evolved to live with dogs, and one of the gifts of our partnership is that humans acquired a bit of neoteny as well. Compared to other primates, humans have a much longer childhood and adolescence. Being with a dog keeps you young in body, mind and spirit.

Here’s Blue teaching new pup Kelda to play seven years ago. Or is it Kelda reminding Blue to play?

Dogs remind us to stop workingBonus 11.  Not only will dogs never criticize your writing, they love you and your writing unconditionally. Unless of course, you try to sneak in extra time in the office, in which case your dog will show you how she loves you by eating your homework.

Get your writing time in and get out of the office. Quit farting around with resistance and spend more time with your dog. You’ll only have her for fourteen and a half years — if you’re extremely lucky.

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14 Comments on “Why Dogs Make Us Better Writers”

  1. Deborah May 22, 2017 at 8:27 pm #

    Please accept my condolences for your loss. Our dogs always live in our hearts. Rosanne, your post was wonderful–so full of emotion and yet so artfully written. I lost my dog Heidi two years ago, but still have another Cavalier rescue dog keeping me company on the couch. She gets me up much earlier in the morning than I would I would on my own steam, but I am grateful for her. Keep on writing these valuable posts.


    • rosannebane May 24, 2017 at 2:15 pm #

      Thank you for your kind words, Deborah. You’re right — our dogs are always in our hearts. Maybe that’s what grief is — reconciling ourselves to the difference between the presence in our heart and the absence in physical reality.
      Please give your dog a hug for me.


  2. Lucy Gray May 21, 2017 at 4:13 pm #

    I am so sorry. I have a sixteen year old chihuahua mix that has been with me longer than any husband, and has seen me through so much. She is the star of the local vet’s office and is currently snoring at my feet. What sweet spirits they are!


    • rosannebane May 22, 2017 at 11:23 am #

      Thanks Lucy. Blue used to snore in her sleep, too. Some of us are lucky to have dogs into their teens, but however long they are with us, they give so much.


  3. Jane Norling May 20, 2017 at 1:59 am #

    My sincere condolences Rosanne. They are our furry children, and must be mourned in a similar manner.
    I volunteer with several rescues, and accept the elderly dogs and those with advanced health issues that no one else wants. Each one brings something special into our lives, and leaves a hole in memoriam when they depart. My gift to them is days without fear or pain, for as long as I can make that happen. And when we can’t fix the body, we give them wings.
    I am sure Blue is practicing cartwheels with his new wings, and keeping an eye on you. He sends his Love.


    • rosannebane May 22, 2017 at 11:25 am #

      Thanks Jane. How generous, brave and compassionate you are to give elderly dogs such wonderful last years/months. And thanks for the expression “when we can’t fix the body, we give them wings.”


  4. Bridgit Colleran Albrecht May 19, 2017 at 4:31 pm #

    So sorry you’ve lost Blue. Dogs are our best teachers about how to live and love. My heart goes out to you, Roseanne!


    • rosannebane May 22, 2017 at 11:26 am #

      Thanks, Bridgit. Every dog I’ve been blessed to live with and love has brought me new lessons and gifts.


  5. Sharon May 19, 2017 at 1:29 pm #

    I feel your grief, Rosanne. So sorry for your loss. I feel blessed everyday my dog, getting up there in years, is with me. No truer heart than a dog.
    Thank you for your wonderful (as always) post.


    • rosannebane May 19, 2017 at 3:15 pm #

      Thank you, Sharon. There is a bonus gift in recognizing the blessing of your dog’s presence. I have no regrets with Blue.


  6. Julie Fasciana May 19, 2017 at 8:58 am #

    So sorry about Blue. Rosanne. You are in my thoughts.


  7. Anonymous May 19, 2017 at 8:57 am #

    So sorry about Blue, Rosanne. You are in my thoughts.


    • rosannebane May 19, 2017 at 3:16 pm #

      Thanks Anonymous. You always have such wonderful observations and kind thoughts. 😉


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