For example, water. When we first got Cassie it was summer and I was out in the yard a lot. I noticed when I would water the plants she would stay far, far away. I’m guessing she got squirted with the hose as punishment or something before we got her. So I got her a wading pool, put it out back, filled it with water, and tossed in a few toys. Then I ignored the water and her.
She ignored it too.
After a few days she was interested enough in the toys to stand by the edge and wait for them to float over so she could get them out. I pretended like I hadn’t noticed but later I put the toys back in the water. This went on for a few weeks until one day the toy she really, really wanted was in the center of the pool and no matter how long she waited, it wasn’t drifting over to the edge. So she put one foot in the water, stretched her neck out as far as possible, snatched that toy, and ran away.
I went in the house before I started to laugh.
It became her personal mission to get anything that went in the pool, back out of the pool. Toys, sticks, leaves and bugs. Anything that floated on the surface was fair game.
But there was one toy, one she really liked, that didn’t float. It sunk. Right down to the bottom of the pool under about 10 inches of water. She got really good at using her paw under water to move it to the edge and then up the side of the pool and back out again. Obviously the goal for her was not to get her pretty little face wet.
I had different goals. I wanted to see if she would decide to put her face in the water on her own. So I grabbed more toys that wouldn’t float and filled the pool with them. It took a lot of effort for her to work them over to the edge with her paw and it wasn’t quite as much fun on the 5th and 6th toy as it was on the first. By now she was quite comfortable just standing in the water so that’s what she did, stood in the pool, over her toy, and stared at me.
I stared back. I could almost see the little wheels turning in her brain. How badly did she really want that toy? What would happen to her if she put her head under the water? What would her human expect from her if she did this very scary thing?
I decided to ignore her. This was her battle, not mine. I went in the house and peered out from between the slatt of the shutters. After much internal deliberation Cassie shoved her nose under water, grabbed that toy, and jumped out of the pool. Her proud tail waving high like a flag annoucing her brave accomplishment.
What did I do? I went back outside and put all the toys back in the pool. And now diving for toys (and bugs) is one of Cassie’s most favorite things to do.
I think the key for Cassie was lots of exposure and no pressure. The same thing we need to do with our writing. When you want to write in an area you haven’t written in before you need to immerse yourself in it. If you want to write picture books you read 100, 200 of them before you even start. If you are switching to mysteries you read lots and lots of mysteries. And then you just dive in. You try. You pause. You try again. You put one foot in the water, then the other and before you know it, you are diving under and writing your first mystery from start to finish.
Today is the first day of National Poetry Month. There are so many wonderful events happening out there in the blogosphere and I was struggling with how I was going to participate. I’ve decided to challenge myself to write a poem a day, a haiku, inspired by my California Native Plant garden. I have long been a fan of haiku though much of what I have written of it was back in high school. I know the basic structure, 5-7-5 and the basic theme, nature. I like the idea that they are short but often many layered. I think haiku could be a wonderful way to introduce more people to native gardening.
This challenge is huge for me on several layers. I am fearful of anything new or looking silly while doing it. I am not a native plant expert so I will have to research oftentimes before I can write. And most of all because doing it, finding a way to combine poetry with my native garden, matters to me a great deal.
I changed my mind from my original post and I will be posting my daily haiku.
Shouldn’t I try to be as brave in my writing as Cassie was about water?
I think so.