Recently, I ran my dog in his first flyball tournament. If you don’t know anything about flyball, it’s a dog sport where two teams of four dogs race against each other in side-by-side lanes. As you might guess, flyball is fast, exciting, and noisy. How the dogs stay focused on their job of racing down the lane, jumping four hurdles on the way, stepping on the flyball box to catch a ball, making a sharp swimmer’s turn, then running back over the jumps and passing the next dog nose-to-nose, is truly amazing. But they do stay focused. Even my novice dog did great.
Now I think there’s something we writers can learn from flyball dogs, especially this time of year. It’s spring, and the atmosphere is alive with activity. Outside, kids are laughing, birds are singing, lawn mowers are humming…how can we possibly sit at our desks and churn out work? Yet we have a job to do. It doesn’t matter if we have clients or just ourselves to answer to. We’re writers. And in order to write, we have to stay focused.
I think my dog would have loved nothing more than to veer off his lane and check out the other dogs at the tournament. Better yet, why not chase them or the loose balls or even run off the course altogether and visit the spectators? But he didn’t do any of those things. He stayed on task because that’s what he’s trained to do. That’s what makes him successful at this job.
So when I feel like veering off path (and, believe me, that thought enters my mind frequently this time of year), I think of my dog. I think of flyball. And then I hit the space bar on my keyboard. As I watch my computer screen come to life, my focus returns and, like my dog, I charge straight ahead.
(Image by Jaye Whitmire)