Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Stop and Smell the Chickens ... a tale of obsession

Posted by: Dani Harper, Author
Okay, okay, in the interests of being a responsible
livestock owner, the CDC advises strongly that
you DO NOT smell your chickens.
No kissing either!

Image use purchased from Bigstock.com
Hi, I’m Dani, and I’m a writer and a confirmed introvert. You don’t have to be an introvert to be a writer, but many of us are, and it probably helps in this particular profession. But there are times when you need to stop pounding the keyboard for a while, replenish yourself, and come back to the work fresh.

Am I smart enough to do this on my own? Nope.

I’m one of those writers who tend to become both obsessive and reclusive (yes, even more than usual!). I specialize in digging in like a badger in a hole, determined to produce a story if it kills me. And it could. Especially now as I’m neck-deep in trying to finish a novel (Storm Crossed, Grim Series #4).

Lucky for me, my ever-patient hubs is used to this. He’s seen it all, is familiar with every phase of noveling, and every stage of writer-mania. Last week he correctly identified the signs of pernicious Writer Overload. As a man of action, he promptly staged an intervention.

Hubs:  There’s a chicken show in Kennewick today. I thought we might go.

Me:  Mmm, I’d love that, but I can’t go anywhere right now. I’m writing.

Hubs:  Honey, you need to get out of the house.

Me:  But I can’t go when I haven’t hit my word count! And I have to fix this scene so I can fix my chapter so I can fix my plot!

Hubs:  Do you know that our friends are getting suspicious?

Me:  We’ll have them over for dinner, right after I finish this novel. I promise.

Hubs:  The neighbors are starting to look at me like I’ve buried you in my vegetable garden. No one’s seen you for weeks.

Me:  Hey, that’s exactly the kind of idea I could use to deal with this secondary character that won't behave—


Image use purchased from Bigstock.com
In the end, I was traumatically separated from my laptop, and driven to an event that was truly tailor-made for me:  a chicken show! Nope, not a show about chickens, but just like there are dog shows for dogs, there are also chicken shows for chickens!

I don’t care who wins the ribbons, I just enjoy walking along rows and rows of cages and exhibits, looking at every breed, variety, and color of chickens there are, and dreaming of what I might add to my little backyard flock in the future. I not only have chickens in the yard right now (and yes, they all have names, like Mrs. Beardsley and Priscilla), but I pore over the hatchery catalogues every January and order chicks. I have 16 balls of fluff in my kitchen at this very moment. 

While coffee is a necessity, chickens are my guilty pleasure. They also provide a small measure of balance in my life. If it weren’t for needing to gather eggs three times a day, feeding and watering and coop-cleaning, I might never leave the house! (Except maybe to visit my thriving gnome colony or plant even more flowers, but that’s a whole 'nother story…)

At the top of my list for future acquisition:
Silkie Chickens!

Image use purchased from Bigstock.com
Hubs and I spent the entire morning not only indulging in chicken-gazing, but also engaging humans in honest-to-god conversation. We went out to lunch as a couple, and talked about everything but writing. And when I got home, I surprised myself by pounding out 1800 words. In a hurry. And they weren’t even terrible.

So what did I learn? 

That SOMETIMES I need to remember who I am when I’m not writing. There are many other parts and pieces to me, other things I enjoy doing and learning, people I love to hang out with, and places that refresh me. Plus, self-care and nurturing can make me more productive.

Will I remember this valuable experience, and remember to PUT THE LAPTOP DOWN occasionally? 

I wish I could say yes, but I know darn well I’ll bury myself in another writing project and I’ll LIKE being buried in it and not want to leave. It’s like Stockholm Syndrome, and my characters are my captors… And sometimes, just sometimes mind you, I’ll need to be dragged away for an hour or two or six.

Even if I kick and scream a little…

A few of Dani's chicken friends!
All photos by Dani Harper

Do you have a favorite thing that makes you smile? Is there someone in your life who reminds you to stop and smell the roses, or at least hands you coffee?

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