When Do You Let Your Creative Pooch Off the Leash?

Animal strokes ... Leonardo da Vinci's Studies of a dog's paw, about 1485. Photograph: The National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh

Where do you go to dream up that killer plot twist? I own a restless mind, and like a puppy scrounging for a toy, it’s always off on an adventure somewhere. During my working hours I reign it in, focusing on the task at hand. Oddly, I have a structured and logical side, and I think this takes control in my school situations. Yet when I take off the dog chain and let it loose, my inner puppy romps all over creation.

Over the years, I’ve learned to channel this rampaging creative force. Direct it toward solving difficult writing problems that stymie my logical side. Usually, what I do is mull over a problem, maybe read a few pages of my manuscript in progress and then give my brain time to work.

What works best is showers. I’m stuck there for fifteen minutes. I can’t write, so my left-brain can’t ruin things by trying to put it all into words. Usually when I emerge, a soppy mess, I rush to a pad of paper and jot the whole thing down in one mind dump. So far this technique has never failed me.

I also find that driving produces the same results for the same reason. I can’t write. This leaves my mind free to explore the permieter of the yard inside my head, sniffing and digging the dirt. I often mind myself stopping in a parking lot and unloading on whatever scrap of paper I have. If you ever see me parked and writing, don’t come near. I’m working.

One time, on a drive to Disneyland, there was nowhere to pull over. Thank goodness my phone has a record feature. I must have put down a dozen tiny recordings. Some no more than a few words. My wife must have thought me insane. At least I kept my eyes on the road.

I used to settle in coffee houses for the same effect. Though with the rise of Starbucks, most independent java joints have vanished. Plus I brew my own killer cups at home these days.

So what about you? Where do you let your creative pooch off the leash? Does the dog deliver the goods, fetching back trinkets of character or plot for you to use?

Tim Kane

8 comments on “When Do You Let Your Creative Pooch Off the Leash?

  1. Misty Dahl says:

    I just wrote a post about this! It’s showers and driving for me! Something about the subconscious going to work. Plotting is a tricky dog for me too. Normally I just start with an idea, a few basic plot points and then I go. Stephen King says, and I’m paraphrasing, he gives his characters a dilemma and then punches the keys to see how they get out of it. It’s the same with my process. The characters tell me where they want to go, and I listen. Still, sometimes everything gets confusing. I use Scrivener, so that helps.

  2. I love your analogy of the puppy sniffing everywhere for a hint of inspiration! I let my dog off the leash at night when I know I have the morning to dump my well-dreamt ideas while I’m still fresh. I haven’t learned to compartmentalize like you although, once the snow melts off the sidewalks so I don’t worry about slipping, I might head out for a long walk with a voice recorder. 🙂

  3. If you think the shower is good, trying getting neck deep. Salt water is best. I live in the Caribbean – the water is always warm here, but you could try a wet suit.

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