Tartan Ink Classic ~ 10 Things I’ve Learned About Writing By Walking My Dog

Hi Tarts,

It’s been quiet in the tea room and so I am re-posting a Tartan Ink Classic.

This piece originally appeared in June 2011.  Prior to that, the piece appeared on my previous blog partner’s blog when I guested there in the days before Tartan Ink.  I also used it in a few other guest blogs elsewhere over the years.

So this piece has made the rounds.

Even so, I think it’s good enough to share again.  I hope you’ll enjoy Em’s gems of wisdom as much today as you did when the piece appeared previously.

Here is the original June 2011 post: 

Sue-Ellen here…

We don’t have a Thursday Blether Industry Guest today, so I’m posting an Oldie-but-Goodie piece that seems timely with RWA coming up.  It’s about two of my favorite things: dogs and writing.  Enjoy!

Tarts know Karen and I LOVE our dogs.  Just as Flash rules at Karen’s house, Em, runs the roost at mine.

He may be small, but he’s king of my world.

Em gets several walks a day and the following are writing wisdoms that have come to me when we’re making our rounds.  I often solve plot issues as well.  Fresh air and exercise allows ideas to flow.  They don’t always have to do with a deadline project.  But they’re usually writing-related.

These points can be applied to many things.  And they show that dogs don’t just offer us unconditional love, but also teach us so much.

Here’s my list…

1)     Do it every day.  It’s true: use it or lose it.  Just like a dog should be walked every day, it’s important to get in those daily pages.

2)     Practice makes perfect.  Similar to nr. 1, making the walks a habit is a good thing.  In writing, this means that the more you write, the more you’ll learn and improve.

3)     Weather, what weather?  Don’t let rain keep you inside.  Your dog looks forward to his walks and needs the fresh air and exercise.  Writers, too, must work through all weathers.  Deadlines don’t wait.

4)     You should still be prepared.  I always take along water and a small bowl for Em.  If it looks like rain, I’ll carry a jacket.  There’s also a little towel in the bag I wear slung over my shoulder.  Whatever comes, I’m ready.  Writing well also needs preparation.  Don’t write in a genre you don’t know or aren’t willing to research.

5)     Expect the unexpected.  I wish I had a dollar for each time the sprinklers burst to life just as Em and I stride by.  We’ve been doused.  And I do mean doused.  Fellow writers know what I mean: those kicks-to-the-shin blows are wicked.  And they come out of nowhere.  They’re a given in this business, so learn to shake them off and keep going.

6)     Take time to smell the roses.  Or whatever other interesting things you encounter along the way.  If you just concentrate on your destination, you’ll miss the fun of the journey.  Writing is an adventure.  Don’t lose sight of the joy that started you on this path.

7)     Accept that dogs come in all sizes.  To me, Em is a king among dogs.  As a Jack Russell, he’s also pretty small.  The parallel to writing is obvious.  No matter how great you think you are, someone bigger is always going to come prancing along.  And when they do, barking at them isn’t going to help.  It’s best to just swallow it and keep going.

8)     Roll in the grass.  Em loves to do this and he does so with total abandonment.  For writers, this means celebrate the good times.  This is a tough business that can bruise and maim if you let it.  So live it up when you triumph.  You deserve the reward.

9)     Heed those I-want-a-walk looks.  Dogs don’t live forever.  Oh, how I wish they did.  So when your four-legged friend gives you the look (dog lovers know what I mean) get up and take him out.  In writing, this is your world outside writing.  Don’t forget its existence.  Deadlines are holy.  But so are those you love.  Be there for them.

10)  When the walk is over, it’s veg time.  Em is zonked after our walks.  I am drained after deadline.  Be sure to give yourself time to recover and refill the creative well between books.  Your muse will thank you.

**Bonus point from Em’s pov: Wag your tail.  When people smile at Em or stop to tell him he’s a handsome boy (he is), he always wags his tail and looks so happy.  Remember to be gracious and always thank people who help you or take time to tell you how much they love your books.  It’s good to be nice.

**Bonus point from my pov – Accept that you can’t please all the people, all the time.  Em usually loves other dogs.  But there are days when he spots one from afar and the two dogs hate each other on sight.  Hackles rise, growls rumble, teeth are bared.  I don’t let it come to blood.  I lead Em in another direction before the scene can get nasty.  In writing, too, one must learn to turn the other cheek and just keep walking.  Life is too short for fusses.  Your nerves will be better for avoiding trouble.

To every dog lover reading this – here’s wishing you and your companion many happy years of walks, tail wags, and sloppy-wet canine kisses.

To the writers reading along (dog lovers or otherwise) – much success!  And remember: no matter what happens, keep going.


Tarts ~ I’ll be leaving this up a while.  I’m busy writing these days and know you all are busy with your lives, too.  I hope you’re all well.  (I will post a Miss Mousie update when I have news.)


Filed under Animals, Dogs, On Writing, Uncategorized, Writing Life

51 responses to “Tartan Ink Classic ~ 10 Things I’ve Learned About Writing By Walking My Dog

  1. Mary Preston

    This was fun to read. I loved the comparisons made.

  2. Ivy D

    He is very handsome. I have a Westie, Riley. I love how you correlated the walking & writing.

  3. Karen C

    It’s a great list, Sue-Ellen, and works for those of us who don’t have dogs or are writers, too! Another lovely post – thanks!

    • Thanks, Karen. I’m so glad you liked the list. I agree – those points can fit just about anything. And it isn’t necessary to walk a dog to come up with such things. Walking is always good for the soul.

  4. Marilyn Munro

    My dog Mandy died when she was 16 years old but never missed a day of walking no matter the weather or how slow it became. I still miss her so much .

  5. Kathy Garuti

    Sue-Ellen, always the best of advise. It does make me a little afraid to try to write a book. Of course I could always try and write one. If turns out to be junk at least I have had the experience.

    • Kathy, If you feel the urge to write, listen to your heart always. Yes, it’s a brutal business. There’s no way to sugar-coat that. It’s all-consuming work with 24/7 hours and highly unstable as well. If I’d known what I know now, I’d still be serving tea and coffee at 37,000 feet. I like security, steady reliable pay, health insurance, vacation time, and benefits. Had I known the age of digital thieves would come and make an already precarious career even more shaky, I’d never have written the first line.

      That said, everything has its good and bad sides. It’s wise to look at both with wide open eyes before embarking on any new venture, whatever it is.

      • Kathy Garuti

        I can write and still look for the big job. I can see if there is a book or just a short story and I can enjoy the trying to write. All that needs to be done before I can even begin to think of entering the industry. I have to have a product to sell not just an idea. If by some miracle I did find I can write and sell. Then maybe just pitching an idea would work. But I am a firm believer in needing to have something solid for a first attempt to sell. So yes I will try to get some blank screens filled just to see where it goes.

        • That’s a sound plan, Kathy. Excellent. I know you can do it. You’re a very talented writer. And you have a brillian mind. Plus the necessary imagination. And you have the ‘gift of the bard’ – your Scottish blood carries the genes of the storytellers of old when Scotland was all about oral tradition. So you have a solid basis built in already. And a solid support sytem…

          You know Karen and I will help you every step of the way. Keep us posted of your progress. :)

      • I love that Sue-Ellen and I are so alike, yet so different.

        After slaving in the corporate world, I am happy as a clam to be a full-time writer. I love everything about it. Digital Thieves? Watch me outwit them. Pissy copy editors? I’ll learn more than they know. Difficult editors? Just charm them with charm. Every job has its downside, and writing isn’t any different.

        The one thing I don’t have to do – as I did for years and years – is pretend to be someone else. To wear a “corporate” suit, watch as things happened that I was powerless to prevent, and be pressed into a square hole when I knew I was a round peg.

        Writing allows me to be wholly myself, to be challenged every day, not only by the above, but the limits of my talent. Every day I learn. Every day, I’m pushed. Every day, I have this small ember of satisfaction. Sometimes, it bursts into a raging fire. Sometimes, it just glows.

        So, Kathy, if you want to write, to pull your soul out through your nose (sorry) and try to put it down on paper, go for it! We’ll be here with scones (me) and haggis (Sue-Ellen) and all the positive feedback we can muster.

        • Well said, Karen. I wish we were alike in this, too. I do love writing. But I find the industry brutal. I can’t encourage anyone to pursue such a career without cautioning them to examine the ups and downs in equal measure.

    • Karen C

      Kathy, Karen and Sue-Ellen can offer and provide things I can’t, but I’d love to be a cheer leader or a sounding board for you! Just say the word …

  6. Vicki N. Hammons

    This is so….life. And great advice. Thank you for sharing.

  7. Mary M

    Good Morning. :)
    This is one of my favorite posts Sue-Ellen. I’m going to print these out and refer to these pointers when I’m having a blah day and/or week. :)

    Also, I must say a big “Thank You!” to you and Karen for this blog site. I just love coming here every day and talking to you and the Tarts! It’s my jump-start to my day. :)

    • Ah, Mary, you’ve really brightened my day. I’m so glad you enjoyed the post and agree, those points can really help when we hit the odd bump along the way. I re-read the list now and then, too. (see above) And I am reminded of many of the points when walking Em each day.

      Bless you for letting us know how much you enjoy Tartan Ink. Karen and I are so pleased that it’s grown into such a warm and welcoming community. That was our hope and goal. As for you… I always smile to see you in here, too. It’s like sharing a cup or coffee before we begin our day. I love that. :)

  8. Okay, Tarts… I’m away to battle the fire-breathing Deadline. Actually, he isn’t yet that ferocious. But it doesn’t take much for him to get that way. And that’s to be avoided at all costs. So I’m away to keep him soothed and happy.

    Have fun in the tea room. There’s plenty of scones and other delights and as it’s summer, the sun is shining brightly outside the tea room windows. I happen to know there’s a lovely rushing stream with a sweet little stone bridge just a few minutes walk away. Perhaps Dev can lead a few of you over there to enjoy the views and cool, clean air.

    I’ll see you later…

  9. Kimberly M.

    Another wonderful post!
    So often I’ll find myself completely emerged in the world of my imagination, then a cold, wet nose will nudge me back to reality. It’s so hard to walk away when I’m on a roll, but having lost 2 fuzzy kids, I try to step away for a little cuddle and playtime. I have to remind myself that one day that particular nose won’t be here.
    Getting down on my dogs’ levels also has shown me that there isn’t anything that a good belly rub and laugh can’t fix. I can’t take myself nearly as seriously when I’m on the floor, rolling around with them.

    • Exactly, Kimberly. It’s a cold, hard truth that our beloved furkids have very short lives, considering. We’re blessed each time one of those cold, wet noses is there to nudge us, I so agree.
      Great insight about the bellyrubs and laughs. So true.

  10. Diane Sallans

    Great rules for life, even if you don’t have a dog and are not a writer. I’m going to keep this list & put it on my fridge as a reminder & a motivator.

  11. Lenna Hendershott

    Sue-Ellen ~ you are SO gracious. It just bleeds out from your writing. Your love just perfumes the air around your posts…I look forward to this blog each day and eagerly read you and Karen’s daily musings with the Tarts. The thoughts and comments stay with me all day and I find myself frequently ruminating on them all day…

    #6 and #9 hit me profoundly today. I get so goal oriented I often forget to stop and smell the roses. I do forget to enjoy the journey when it seems I just want to get to the destination asap. I forget that life is the journey. As to #9 I have found myself catching those “I-want-a-walk looks” from those around me and have to remember (or point it out to my husband) — “Deadlines are holy. But so are those you love. Be there for them.” For me it’s my family I get wrapped up in “my stuff” and forget to realize my children and parents won’t always be there. We have to make time to be there for them.

    And I am definitely taking you up on that sunshine and lovely rushing stream with a sweet little stone bridge just a few minutes walk away. It seems summer in only a tease this year in Oregon. We will probably have a glorious October this year. Even our fabulous strawberries aren’t very sweet this year and VERY late. I live for Oregon strawberry season…alas :-(

    • Goodness, Lenna, you’re so kind. Thank you so much for your good words. And I’m delighted you enjoy Tartan Ink so much. That’s so heartening to hear.

      #6 and #9 cut right to the core of things, don’t they? It’s so easy to focus only on the destination. And wouldn’t it be tragic to get there and discover all we may have lost along the way… if we forget what’s truly important.

      Agh to the poor strawberry crop. I love them, too. Though if their lack of sweetness means a lovely autumn… wow!!! That’s my favorite time of year and I bet it’s so gorgeous there. Something to look forward to!!

  12. Maude

    No matter how bad a day I’ve had, when I get home there is a dog who is tickled to death to see me. That happiness is always heartwarming and it will ususally lift me right out of whatever funk I’ve been in. They are the blessing that we get each and every day. I for one, give thanks for them. I can tell that you do too.

    • Well said, Maude. And you’re right. I feel the same way. Agree with every word. One look from Em, one sweet doggy kiss or snuggle, and all my cares vanish. Dogs really do define unconditional love. I wish they all were as cherished as ours.

  13. Helen


    Loved the post life wouldn’t be the same without out furry friends even though i have a large and wonderful family without a dog it wouldn’t be the same

    Have Fun

  14. Very nice post… We do love our dogs… :-)))

  15. Kathy Garuti

    Going to try to go to bed earlier tonight. This has been a day of encouragement. I thank you all for that. Our tearoom is such a comfortable to be. I have a ton of email from my quilt group to read but I have sent my emails and now this so good night sweet Tarts!

  16. Ann G

    Our husky, Nanook, has had health problems recently, and been hospitalized. He’s improving, and eating better, but it’s going to take some time to heal. Nanook NEEDS his walks, and I’m the resident dog walker. I take him to the local regional park, and then get the mail.

    • Oh, Ann, please give Nanook a great big hug and lots and lots kisses and loving from me. I’m so glad to hear he’s doing better. Please keep us posted to his progress. Yes, that boy will be needing his walks, bless him.
      Enjoy every one of them. Wishing Nanook at full recovery!! (love his name)

  17. Excellent advice! My aged furry companion is sleeping by me as I’m typing. She is the best teacher of unconditional love & how to enjoy life that I’ve ever known. I didn’t realize she was teaching me about writing, too! :)

  18. Thanks, Julia. I’m so glad you enjoyed this post. Yes, our furkids are the best teachers of unconditional love. Absolutely. I have a senior dog, too. He also sleeps on the back of my chair, behind me, as I work. So sweet… Please give your precious girl lots of cuddles and kisses and loving words from me.

  19. What a fabulous list! I was inspired to write my own post about life lessons I learned from my dog Spike:


  20. Mary Morgan

    Oh Sue-Ellen, I just happened to pop on over and was thrilled to see this post again. Those words of wisdom about dogs is so very true. This was a wonderful post, and I’m so happy that I stopped by….take care. :)

    Give Em a hug and extra treat from me. ;)

    • I love this post, Mary. As noted at the top, I’ve recycled it many times. I’ve been using it on guest blogs (and in the tea room) for several years now. It’s always been well received as so many readers also love animals. I’m too busy just now to do regular posts, so will be putting up “Tartan Ink Classics” now and then.

      I will definitely give Em some loving from you. And a treat. (they’re always welcome in his world)

  21. Sue-Ellen, this was a wonderful piece and I’m glad it has been re-posted. Em is always a treat.

  22. Kathy Luehrs

    Love the list – especially about not being able to please everyone all the time and of course taking time for your pets and yourself

  23. Such wonderful words of wisdom! I’m a #8 type of gal. You will find me rolling in the grass daily with a huge smile. I laugh each day and celebrate the day simply because I am alive. I have a wonderful family, furry and not furry, and fantastic friends who I am so blessed to have in my life. Thank you for bringing this to the forefront again after all these years. Em has truly been such a blessing to you and through you, to us. :)

    I know I’ve said this before but I love that 1st picture of Em. His smile is contagious! This one and the shadow picture of the two of you are my all time favorites.

    • Bless you for commenting on this ancient piece, Leah. It has certainly given me lots of mileage over the years. It remains a favorite of mine and I’ll surely repost it again soon.

      Being a #8 type of gal is splendid. I think I am that, too. I find reason to laugh every day, regardless of what life throws at me. Smiles and laughter are good for the soul.

      Isn’t that a neat ‘smiley picture’ of Em? I love it, too. And the shadow picture. That was fun. I’ll repost that one soon, just for you. :)

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