We've never had a dog before, so back when we got Penny, I went to the library and checked out a bunch of books by Cesar Millan, known worldwide as The Dog Whisperer. I wanted to find out the best way to raise a problem-free puppy without a lot of trial and error on our part. I know that there are some who disagree with Cesar's methods, but we have found them remarkably effective as we follow them.
Cesar's biggest piece of advice for dog owners is that dogs need exercise, discipline, and affection--in that order. When he is called in to help a family struggling with canine issues, he finds that if the humans will stick to those three things--in that order--most (if not all) of their dog problems will cease.
Cesar says most people struggle with the concept of discipline, fearing that it's synonymous with punishment. But it's not--Cesar is all about structure and consistency. Expectations and follow-through--which means the discipline is actually more for the owner than for the pet.
As I've taken Penny on long walks and created and maintained structure for her days (and petted and cooed over her plenty), I've pondered the exercise-discipline-affection triumvirate. It seems remarkably effective for humans, too. When my kids get plenty of physical, mental, and spiritual exercise, they are relaxed and receptive. As far as discipline goes, I've always been a huge fan of structure, consistency, and logical consequences. And of course, daily, unconditional affection is crucial to the development of any child.
This morning, it occurred to me that Cesar's formula works for writers, too.
Exercise: writers write, and they need to do a lot of it. Have you put in your 10,000 hours to become a world-class writer yet? If not, get on it; time's a-wastin.'
Discipline: what's your routine? Are you consistent? Can you get your rear in your chair and get the words out of your fingers even when you don't feel like it?
Exercise and discipline alone will take you far in your career, but make sure to allow yourself some writerly affection. Read for the pure pleasure of it. Write something different than you normally do: a poem or a song, a personal essay or a guest post. Attend a conference and bond with other writers. Take pride in your accomplishments and focus on your growth.
Exercise, discipline, and affection--give them a try. I believe they can solve 95% of the problems we have, both as mothers and as writers.