The Writer’s Dog

Kurt Vonnegut had Pumpkin. Neil Gaiman had Cabal. John Steinbeck had Charley and was so fond of Charley that he went on a road trip with him, which he wrote up in a book entitled ‘Travels With Charley’; a title which didn’t even raise a snigger back then.

Fifty (on left) and Lotte - temporary Writer's Dogs
Fifty (on left) and Lotte – temporary Writer’s Dogs

I had Gonzo for too few years and this week I am delighted to say I have Fifty and Lotte here as honorary writer’s dogs. The “writer’s dog” is a well-known notion, but what exactly is the role of the canine companion for a writer?
Well, for a start, a dog gives you somebody to talk, and even read to – and they are hardly critical at all! They help you feel you are not alone in the world, facing an army of hostile critics, unhelpful agents, demanding publishers and whooshing deadlines (© D. Adams). As a living, breathing, yawning (often farting) being your dog connects you with a world that is larger than the inside of the skull that you live in most of your time – which has a nasty habit of being both too constrictive and infinite at the same time.

Dogs make you move. Not excessively so, but the occasional trip to see what they are barking about is a good way to keep the circulation going. New research has shown that the majority of writers who do not move are dead. This is bad for a writer, although it can be good for sales. It is very bad for aspiring writers.

Dogs need walkies. Walking is an extended form of movement that is very good for writers too. Although it takes them away from their computer/word processor/typewriter/pen/pencil or quill/slate – slate being the choice for real hard core traditionalists. Walking can provide some much-needed thinking, or even inspiration, time. Ideas, characters and plots can come together when you walk in the most opportune of manners.

Also, collected poo in a bag is a very good metaphor for what most writers have to face in their chosen profession. Above all though a dog gives a writer what they probably are really looking for in life: indiscriminate adoration. If only dogs bought books.

Got to go. Lotte is grumbling at Fifty about something. Ah, movement – thank you writer’s dogs.

My original writer’s dog Gonzo: Continue reading The Writer’s Dog

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For anybody considering writing for theatre: Things Theatre Writers Should Know

Theatre Advice 3The full advice, before you start writing for theatre:

  • Sadly directors are not there to get your ‘vision’ on stage in an unadulterated form – many have thoughts of their own. Live with it.
  • Actors are not wet-props. Some have thoughts and feelings like regular people do.
  • You will rarely get the credit, but some directors will always try to give you the blame (even if they rewrite your script).
  • Putting on a play is very much a group activity, but you’re not really in the group (most of the time).
  • Part of your job is to present your work in a properly formatted fashion with clear and precise stage directions. Your genius is more recognisable that way.
  • Do not expect to live on what you earn as a theatre writer, get yourself a proper job too.
  • It’s all right to say ‘I’ve got a new play on’, just not in the presence of anybody else involved in the production.
  • Writers are not meant to marry actors. It’s a matter/antimatter thing.
  • If you want to work with professionals, act like a professional – sorry, be a professional; never act at all. That’s not your job.
  • Theatre writers are not restricted to just writing plot and dialogue. If you really, really believe it is truly important that somebody should enter STAGE LEFT say so, but don’t be an arse about it.
  • You are not writing a radio play – think visually.
  • You are not writing a film script either – don’t think that visually.
  • If you require lavish sets marry well.
  • Never tell anybody with a manual occupation, or working in public services, how hard your job is.
  • Awards don’t matter until you get one.
  • Never trust anybody who says you can make money at the Edinburgh Fringe, unless they sell fast food.
  • Most critics are only human.
  • The show does not have to go on, get a sense of perspective – other people have lives too.
  • Producer is a job too.
  • Never be the last one to stop clapping at your own show. Continue reading For anybody considering writing for theatre: Things Theatre Writers Should Know