For the past week I’ve been on full-time puppy duty (and dooty). She’s an eight-week-old golden doodle we just got named Casey. Prepare to activate your “awwww” buttons.
Yes, we now have a living teddy bear in our house. She’s adorable, whiny, playful, clumsy, meek, and friendly. But she also looks at the world in a way that reinvigorates my approach to writing.
She’s curious, to the same degree that the Milky Way is roomy.
Everything is new to her. Every sight, sound, taste, smell, and feel is a wondrous, vibrant, scary, exhilarating experience for Casey. Sometimes she’s tentative in partaking of a new situation and sometimes she dives right in without thinking about it. A fire hose of sensory information is pointed right at her and she’s absorbing it all like a desiccated sponge. It really is a joy to watch.
I think that’s why I enjoy movies like Elf and Twins so much. Through the main characters’ eyes, it’s fun experiencing everything to which we’ve become jaded with a whole new appreciation and sense of wonder.
It’s hard for me to remember a time like that from my childhood with any fidelity. The closest recent experience I can recall was when I went to ThrillerFest for the first time. I didn’t know anyone. I didn’t know how a conference worked. I was new to the writing craft and business. I hadn’t even been to the conference location of Phoenix before then. The fire hose was turned on me and I could barely keep from drowning in the information bombarding me.
Now when I go to ThrillerFest, I know many of the attendees, I’ve been on numerous panels myself, and I’m a New York aficionado since the conference has been held there seven years in a row. Information new to me dribbles in.
The key is capturing that sense of newness and wonder in my storytelling. When I’m reading I want that fresh experience I’ve never before encountered, yet I’ve read so many stories it’s hard not to feel that I’ve seen it all before. If you’re well-read in a genre, you likely have had the same experience.
So my goal is to mirror Casey’s approach to the world when I’m staring at the blank screen. If what I’m conjuring doesn’t provoke in me that delight of discovery, then it’s probably crap that doesn’t belong on the page. And nobody wants to look at a pile of dooty.