Updated: Aug 16, 2022
I had a writing goal for last week to finish the structural outline for a memoir about how loss shapes families.
Then I found a lost dog.
She was hiding in the median across from my neighbor’s house, like a cat who flattens itself into the ground, an instinct to become invisible. The day before, a neighbor posted about the dog, and Kyle had met her on his walk earlier that morning, so I diverted my route to see her. And then diverted my entire week to rescue her.
This is a running theme in my life, proven by the many photos during my childhood of random strays we took in for a season or a decade. Fortunately, I grew up with parents who also had bleeding hearts for the scroungy, collarless mutts that somehow kept wandering into our life, and eventually into our backyard. If my dad was reading this, he would smile at the word somehow. I dragged them home, every time.
Our neighborhood is full of stray cats, and we seem to be a favored location for dumping unwanted dogs. I don’t have certainty about Rosie’s history (yes, I gave her a name), but my guess is she delivered a litter of puppies, and someone took them, leaving her behind. Seeing her ears poking up from the grass set in motion a chain of events that distracted me all week: searching for rescue organizations, vet appointments, raising funds for vet bills, and settling her in with my daughter, who has a backyard and unlimited patience for animals.
On Thursday, as I sat in yet another vet clinic waiting for Rosie’s heartworm test results, she laid her head on my knee and stared up at me.
“You are a distraction,” I informed her. Rosie’s thin tail swept across the tile floor, and she waited for me to keep talking because she loves the sound of a human’s voice and intense eye contact. “But it’s my fault, not yours.”
I delivered Rosie to a foster home on Saturday, which is a happy outcome for both of us. She has a safe, loving place where she will wait on a permanent rescue family, and I can return to work on my writing projects, editing, and book coaching. Assuming there are no more distractions. And this leaves me wondering – do I go looking for distraction, or does it find me? While Rosie and I waited for her test results, I pondered this question, and am still turning it over in my mind.
It's easy for me to set the creative projects and plans aside for the more “urgent” tasks that arise. In fact, sometimes I run from creative projects because I am afraid of them. They contain so many possibilities for failure, vulnerability, and exposure. They are filled with risks:
What if I can’t finish it?
What if it’s terrible?
What if people laugh at it, or worse, what if they feel sorry for me?
And my greatest fear:
What if it’s mediocre?
Perfectionism will kill creativity and convince us there are more urgent tasks that must be completed before we sit our butts in the chair and get the creative work done. This is my problem and always has been. I’ve been working on this manuscript for 15 years, and every time I decide to get serious about it, I find a wide variety of distractions that keep me from following through. I don’t regret taking on Rosie and would do it all over again, but I have to be honest with myself and admit that finding a home for a stray dog is easier than writing. And less risky.
I’m locking myself in my writing space and working this week, and even put a sticky note on the wall by my computer that says, “Stay seated, please.” Sometimes, the only way to get the creative work done is to remain in place and keep your head down. I still struggle with this, but it’s a new week, and I’m going to be brave and try. Again.
You can still contact me if you are interested in adopting the amazing Rosie. I’ll get back to you after I’ve been seated for a while. And if you are also feeling distracted and need encouragement to get a writing project going, or finished, contact me. I'd love to help!