I always find myself, when frustrated, thinking of how I could write said frustration. I don't know why that thought pops into my head with this emotion so much more than any other. Perhaps when I'm happy, I'm focused on that happiness more than anything else. Or perhaps I'm just not a happy person and I don't get truly happy enough. Or maybe because I feel more curious about frustration than happiness.
Regardless, I think I have learned to distance myself in the hopes that when I go to write a character's frustration, I can remember that tightness in my chest, the sinking disbelief as the blood drains from my face when I realize the thing my dog is chewing like a rawhide treat is my handcrafted, seal-skin Alaskan mukluk.
My German Shepherd. I love her--I do. At least, I tell myself I do. (What is love, really? But that's another topic.)
Back on point. I love my dog. But there comes a time, like tonight, when I wonder what I'm getting out of this relationship. She gets food, water, a bed, healthcare, love, discipline... And I get...a dog that chews up my slipper. Hand beaded, handcrafted by a wonderful woman, friend of my mother's, who recently died.
In retrospect, I should have known the dog was into something. While in the bath, I heard her collar jingling too much to be normal, but...I just thought she was scratching. Alas, no. She had already eaten one mukluk and was on to the second by the time I found her. I was so stunned, I stared at her for several seconds before I could take it all in. The only remnants of one slipper was the cotton interior and the felt beaded portion. The rest, evaporated. Consumed by the dog who happens to be allergic to most meats. (I.e. including rawhides, chews, treats of any kind.)
Since becoming a writer, I find myself distanced from emotions. I've heard it said that writers must be emotional and close in tune to their emotions, but I disagree. I think writers must be close observers of emotions, whether their own or others.
I don't have to suffer the death of my spouse to write about it. I don't have to experience drugs to write about their effects. Sure, it may lend some authenticity, but as humans, our emotions and bodies are limited. We can only feel so much, in so many different ways. The way those emotions are described, however, are positively endless. I think this is why I distance myself, why I step back in the midst of a strong emotion to ask myself what I'm feeling and why. I want to be able to describe it to others, to give a written situation that hint of authenticity that makes my character jump off the page, jump into life, into my reader's soul. Emotions do that.
A little emotional distance not only saves me a lot of heartache, but gives me a tool in my writer's toolbox to use later. And one day, perhaps my dog will become immortalized in a novel or short story. Perhaps with the end result being the immediate death of the dog. Or a slow, painful death as she chokes on seal skin. Or maybe the dog will be cast out of her family only to later redeem herself? I can only hope.
So this entire ordeal begs the question: do you think she's allergic to seal? I have the foreboding feeling that I'll find out tonight.