Lately, my daughter and I have been watching episodes of Dogs with Jobs on Netflix, a charming show that profiles canines who have jobs—everything from sheepherders to arson dogs, actors to surrogate moms for baby cheetahs. The show’s always good for a few laughs and occasionally some tears.
Just as dogs can perform a number of jobs in human society, they also have a variety of lessons to teach us. Here are a few tidbits I’ve learned from watching the show (and from having a few dogs) that apply to writing.
1) Treat yourself.
To say that these dogs are enthusiastic workers is an understatement. But why are they so happy to be doing their labors? Because they get treats, that’s why. In almost every profile we’ve watched, the main motivation for the dogs is a treat. Likewise, be sure to give yourself little rewards, too, be it for hitting your daily word count, submitting a story for publication, or doing some form of marketing. Treat yourself to a cup of coffee, a new book, a dog biscuit, or peeing on a tree. Whatever works!
2) Your job is your identity.
These dogs don’t just do their jobs. They are their jobs. Whether it’s a companion animal in a nursing home or a disaster rescue specialist, the job is part of who they are. So don’t just write. Be a writer. Writing isn’t just something you do. It’s who you are. At your most basic core level, be a writer. We write because we’re not being true to ourselves if we don’t.
For your characters, think about how their job shapes them, what it says about them, and how it affects their day-to-day lives.
3) Game your writing.
Whether they’re chasing geese off a golf course or sniffing out drugs at the Mexican border, these dogs are always wagging their tails. Why? Because for them, work isn’t work. It’s a game. These furry guys are busting their asses but they’re also enjoying themselves. So, try approaching your writing in the same playful spirit. Yes, yes, I know . . . writing is hard work. But you know what? Sex can be hard work, too, but it’s also oodles of fun (unless you’re doing something very wrong).
In summary, write like a dog, treat yourself, be a writer, be playful when you write, and shake your tail while you’re having sex.
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