My new Animals in Focus Mystery series focuses in each book on a different animal activity, with dog obedience in the spotlight in book one, Drop Dead on Recall. In fact, the title is a play on "drop on recall," the name for one of the exercises in open- (mid-) level obedience competition. For more than a decade I taught obedience classes, mostly to pet owners who wanted gain some control of their dogs. Many did fine, and emerged at the end of the class with slightly improved skills for communicating with their dogs.
Some were inspired to continue training, and a few of those eventually went on to compete. At each step up that ladder from "my dog is dragging me down the street" to "my dog just earned an obedience title!" there were dropouts, because I’m here to tell you that as easy as it looks when you see a well-oiled dog-and-owner team perform (like my friend Gayle Watkins and her lovely Corey), it took them a lot of hard work to get there.
So it goes with writing. Many people begin with an urge to write. Some have a specific project in mind – often a memoir – but some just feel they’d like to try writing and find their subject as they go. They take a class or two, or join a writers’ group, or go to a conference. It’s fun at first. Then the fun becomes more complicated. And painful. Not all criticism is "constructive," and even when it is, it’s hard to hear. Don’t even think about rejection – although if you’re serious about publishing, you’d better get used to the idea! (Ah, another topic for another day.) So like the doggy-school dropouts who don’t want to spend time teaching the things their dogs don’t learn (or obey) quickly, a lot of beginning and intermediate writers dropout when the pleasures of writing begin to bump up against disappointments and plain old hard work.
And it takes a lot of hard work to be good, much less great (at writing, at anything). Many people quit when this becomes evident. I'd say that's sad, but I'm not sure it is. I think we should try something new every so often. I encourage everyone to do so, especially anyone who teaches – take a class in a genre or an art form or a sport or a subject completely new to you. It will expand your own frame of reference, and it may lead you to a new passion. It will also remind you how hard learning is so that you’ll see what you teach from a newcomer’s perspective.
Thanks to Gayle Watkins and Corey (U-CD LornaDoone Encore! Encore! CDX SH MX MXJ NF WCX OD VCX CCA TT) for permission to use the video.
An earlier version of his piece originally published March 21 online at Inkspot, a blog by mystery authors whose books are published by Midnight Ink. -Sheila