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  • jrblackburnsmith

My Writing Support Team

This is the first face I see every morning. As soon as the alarm rings Poppy is on my chest, staring down at me, telling me "Get the hell out of bed and get started writing!" If I move a little too slowly, she lays down on my head and licks at my face until I get moving. Once I'm up, the first stop of the morning is a trip outside for Poppy and her brother Rooster (a black and white Boston Terrier.)

Once they are assured that the cold morning air has me fully awake, they go back to the bed and burrow under the covers to cuddle with my wife, leaving me to my work. I grab a cup of coffee (I'm good for about 40 ounces before noon) and head to the office. My actual writing companion is my dad's dog, Red. We adopted Red when my parents moved from an old farmhouse to a small apartment. Red is a rescue, and no one knows his exact age, but he's lived with us for eight years and with my parents for five or six years before that, so he's getting up there.

Red has become a creature of habit. In his younger days he loved to chase deer through the woods and might frequently disappear for an entire day or two, but now when he sees deer, he doesn't even bark. He prefers to be in the same spot at the same time every day (we're a lot alike.) The highlight of his week is taking the recycling to the local center; he gets a car ride without his annoying younger companions and it's not to the vet.

All of which means that at 4am, there is nowhere Red would rather be than laying on the floor of the office while I write. Fear of disappointing any of my dogs is an excellent motivator, especially at 4am on one of those mornings that it is so cold outside no one wants to move. I owe all three dogs my gratitude for their support (Perhaps I should dedicate my next book to them.) I will admit, they don't offer much help when I'm wrestling with a problem in the manuscript, not even when I ask them directly, but they never give me bad advice.

All writers need a support team. Just knowing that someone cares about you putting in the work you need to do to create a meaningful page is critically important. Writing is a practice. It requires a commitment to sit and do the work, especially on the days you don't want to do the work. Writing in a frenzy of inspiration is a wonderful experience. It feels magical to see page after page fill up with words as you capture that idea that is bursting from your soul (inspired writing, remember?) Those moments are a gift, but they are not about your craft. In some ways, those moments are more like taking dictation than writing. The work of writing begins when the inspiration fades, and you take that wild growth of ideas and turn it into a garden of meaning.

So, find your writing support team and ask them to keep you on task. They will be an essential part of your work.

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