<– This is Gavin.
These are Gavin’s chew toys. –>
Gavin is a little bit obsessive about his chew toys.
From the day we brought him home, his “chewies,” as we call them, have been a spectacular hit. As you can see, this is a very well-fanged dog, so we went through a lot of chew toys before lighting on a brand (West Paw, if you have a similarly endowed chewer) that could hold up to that mouthful of teeth.
They have to be sturdy, because Gavin has a profound passion for his chew toys. Chewing is his gift and his calling. His chewies and he share the love that dare not speak its name.
He can chew for literally hours–to the point where my husband cannot bear the squeaky rubber noise. To the point where guests comment upon it, with a tepid smile that wants to suggest it’s adorable, but which is shaded with pity for our poor obsessive furry son, and sometimes not a little bit of superiority about their own no doubt well-adjusted pets.
He likes to nap with the chewy. He likes to lick the chewy. After a game of fetch he likes to carry the chewy home. If he cannot get to a chewy, for instance in his kennel, he will ruck up his rug and shove it in his mouth–his other obsession–and just sit there like it’s his binky.
There is much to admire in my dog’s single-minded devotion and focus on his chewies. But sometimes he gets so worked up it seems as if it’s taking over his life, and he seems constitutionally unable to give it a rest and focus on other things until we take the chewy away.
Do Gavin and his chewy remind you of you and your writing, by chance?
Creativity is such an intrinsic part of who creatives are, it can feel as if it’s our whole identity. Common writing advice leans into that: “real writers write every day, no matter what”; your stories are your “book babies” for which you must endure months and sometimes years of labor; writing is easy—just open a vein and bleed.
It’s become a common joke that writers are constantly thinking about their stories: in the shower, on a walk, at work, most soberingly while with family and friends. It’s a comic cliché that we lie sleepless for hours with our heads spinning with ideas, the necessary notebook ever ready beside the bed to write them down before they flee in the night.
Friends, I do these things. I can’t count how many of these blogs I’ve written on my dog walk or in the middle of the night; how often I am distracted by working through some new concept I want to teach or an author’s manuscript I’m working on. How many nights and weekends and holidays I’ve given up to work.
This kind of passion and dedication aren’t bad in and of themselves—but just like Gavin’s chewy, we need to know when to put it down and focus on other parts of life.
Especially right now, when you may be busy with holiday prep or visiting family or simply allowing yourself to enjoy this season of the year–or just trying to get through it, as it’s not always a happy season for everyone–I just want to offer you permission to give it a rest.
Lately I’ve taken all the pressures off myself for the rest of the year. Yes, I have responsibilities I must still meet, and I am, but I’m giving myself the freedom to not push myself harder than I have to right now. I’m not worrying about the book I’m working on…or upcoming presentations or speaking engagements…or anything at all beyond just meeting my current deadlines, and enjoying some time with my husband, my family, the dogs, friends. I’m visiting family and meeting friends and entertaining and making toffee and watching movies and reading just for pleasure, not for work.
It’s rather glorious.
The most affecting book I read this past year was called Rest, by Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, and I urge you to treat yourself to it as your gift to yourself.
Pang presents the (to me) revelatory concept that rest is not the opposite of work—it’s an intrinsic part of it, the other side of the coin, like breathing out and breathing in are both part of respiration.
Lest you dedicated creatives take that as permission to use your rest time to consciously percolate ideas, that’s not what he means. Yes, that kind of passive creativity is crucial. But it too should be stepped away from sometimes.
We are more than our productivity or even our passions. Life is more than that.
When Gavin steps away from his chewies for a while, or has them taken away, he has the chance to work on obedience exercises, which we both adore. He’s able to have love sessions with me and my hubs on the floor. We go on long walks where he can sniff every single spot where every dog in a five-mile radius has ever peed. He gives his jaw a rest and avoids TMJ.
But much more important, he has time to unwind and relax. To unspool himself from the tightly wound ball he can become and learn to self-soothe. To rest. To stretch out in a pool of sunlight and simply enjoy the warmth seeping into his black fur.
This time of year, which so often feels like a hectic crush we simply have to get through, I hope you will give yourself permission to not worry about work too much, nor your writing and how well it may or may not be going at the moment, and just let go—no pressure, no guilt, no obsessive chewing.
Happy holidays, my friends. I’m grateful you’re here.
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