'Tis the season for giving. We all know that, just like we all know that 15 minutes could save us ... well, you know. But I've been thinking a lot about giving lately, mostly because of my dog.
My husband and I got this new Airedale puppy. We love her, but Airedales are scary smart, stubborn, independent, stubborn, hard-headed, stubborn, and described in their breed standard as "willfully disobedient." Did I mention they're stubborn? Ours is no different. She can be a total love (still wants to be a lap dog at 30+ pounds), or a total maniac. Her choice. We've been brushing up on our training advice in order to mitigate the problems, and the answers to many of the issues are: keep them busy. Dogs need jobs, and if we don't give them jobs, they will find their own--and we may not like them. Tire them out. A tired dog is a good dog. That means, for now, our lives revolve around this pup. We take her for walks. We play with her in the house. We play with her out in the yard. We teach her manners and tricks. We hide treats and have her find them. When she's in an agreeable mood, it's all fun. When she's not, it's harder than hell.
Annie the Airedale
So the other day she was being a brat and I was getting short-tempered. I was resentful for not being able to do what I wanted to do and mad at her for doing all the things puppies do: jumping up on me, getting dirty paw prints on my pants, biting me, thinking I'm playing when I'm trying to discipline her, you name it. Aggravated, I kept doing the things I thought she needed, and she kept being a brat.
Finally I had to walk away.
And then I remembered. Ages ago, I read somewhere (can't remember where) one book of many about taking care of ourselves. About mental health. I don't now remember what book or who wrote it, I remember nothing but one line:
Giving out of less than fullness is giving poison.
I realized I was doing that. I was trying to meet the pup's needs but I was neglecting my own, and it showed. I wasn't connecting with her, I wasn't being effective, I was just making myself mad and her crazy for all the wrong reasons. I wasn't giving out of fullness.
It occurred to me that this same principle can apply to everything we do in life. It certainly applies to writing. Not completely committed to the book you're writing? It shows. Writing commercial fiction to meet a deadline, please a publisher or make a buck? It shows. But writing from the heart, writing from fullness, that shows, too. Writing from fullness means pouring ourselves into the story, it means giving fully what the story needs for no other reason than that the story requires it, and it means not putting anything down on the paper until we, ourselves, are topped off completely in all the ways that matter. Mentally, emotionally, intellectually, spiritually full. Anything less diminishes the story and diminishes us as writers. Easy? Hell, no. (You did read the title of this post, right?) But it's a valuable concept, one well worth considering.
And something for which I need constant reminding. Luckily, I have this dog ...