Lessons of a Little Dog


It is that time my good friends.

The Monday whip-cracking blog has arrived.

Oh, you thought I forgot?

For those of you who stated your goals on my Facebook post, be prepared to be pounced upon, my tail-wagging, my enthusiasm shedding all over the place.

I do it out of love.

I promise.

If you haven’t noticed, we are back to dog analogies. I blame my friend Greg. I will explain why in a moment.

While I did not achieve everything on my list from last week, I learned a long time ago (like an hour ago) that what is more important is that in aiming for goals I start myself on the journey and it is in the journeying I learn. And this week I made some strides. The method to my madness regarding research and plotting has fallen into place. I learned a valuable lesson while rewriting an old short story. I am nearly done taking notes for one of my research books, and, more importantly, I know where I am headed and how to get there.

But by far the biggest achievement this week has been a big exhale. After a long, wild journey I have found the answers I needed to allow everything else to fall into place.  A bit like Dorothy Gale from Kansas, I have been chased by flying monkeys, stolen the broom from the wicked witch, melted her with a bucket of water, only to discover that all I had to do was close my eyes and click my heels to find my way home.

Like Dorothy, I have also had friends with me every step of the way (you know who you are) linking arms with me, reminding me of the simple, basic things I had forgotten once I was lifted up by the twister and set down in Oz. I want to thank you for that, for your patience and perserverance.

I was talking with Greg about all of this tonight, only I wasn’t using Oz analogies because that would have sent us off on endless tangents. Greg unfortunately defies being placed as any of the OZ characters, he is more of a Chewbacca I think (I can only get away with this because he lives on the other side of the planet and can’t toilet paper my house), but anyway, Greg handed me a great analogy for the anxiety I have been battling with this last year.

He said (and I am paraphrasing here):

You know Alegra, the thing is you are like a little dog with your writing, when you hit on something and it is flowing, you get really excited, you know you are going somewhere and you start bounding around, tail wagging, barking, “Yay! Car ride! Woohoo! Car ride!” and then you start to get worried that the car ride isn’t actually going anywhere, you get anxious and start pacing, “Wait? Where’s the car? Car ride? Car ride? Where are you???” And then you go back to the writing and start worrying it, trying to make it perfect so that you can go for your ride.

This is so accurate. Only in the last month my little dog and I have been through some therapy sessions. Now, my dog is feeling a little more secure, she knows she gets to ride in the front seat, window down, tongue lolling. She is going to get cuddled and given treats. She doesn’t need to worry. She has graduated to Toto-dom, a side-kick, smart (and smart-ass) dog, navigating the yellow brick road and biting the hem of the Wicked Witch.

Toto always knows the way.

I think all anxieties deserve their own analogies, their own super-hero alter egos.

What would your super-hero be?

So my goals for this week are:

1. Finish notes on Police procedure and Investigation

2. Read through and take notes on: Forensics & Earth in the Balance

3. Start doing my morning pages again first thing before I hit the computer (three pages stream of consciousness)

4. Read some more fiction, maybe another Picoult, to continue to absorb structure and rhythm

5. Become acquainted with Adam’s (aka Dubious Sleuth) suggestion: the Zotero-something-or-other research tool

How did you do last week? What do you plan for this week?

22 responses

  1. You are so focused on your writing. So brilliantly motivated. . .I’m so jealous of your motivation and your talent. . .I think that MY goals for the week will be:

    1. Not letting the boys at school get to me because they are just very angry and lashing out and they don’t mean a lot of what they are saying.

    2. Spend more quality time with my wife cause lately we’ve been too caught up by external forces lately.

    3. write SOMETHING, anything.

    BTW, I love all of the dog analogies; so perfect for you.

    • Yay! Shambles!
      I think you were in my dream last night – and who are these boys??? Give me names! I’ll get them with my Roaringest Tiger Roar ;o)
      I hear you on number 2 – that is a challenge for Dan and me right now.
      Today I am going to take a break and finally get myself subscribed to your updates – I only just figured it out. I have been unable to figure out the rss feed. I probably shouldn’t admit my ineptness like that but hey, you know me, I fall down gracelessly and announce it to the world right?

    • Thank you Jennifer…how is the photography?
      I wish I had my energy too! Lately I have been moving at turtle speed but hopefully it will pass.
      How is school going?

  2. From the Facebook crew:
    JoAnn Dunn at 2:25am March 3
    I have become focused on getting my thoughts down somewhere because it seems that so much of the good stuff (at least it seems like good stuff to me) is lost as I think of it while I am driving to work in the morning. I purchased a Sony IC Recorder (ICD-SX68) recorder which came with voice recognition and transcription software. It took about two hours to go through the software training process which was more for the software than me so that it would recognize my voice and now I’m set to go. It’s a tool that I need because a lot that comes from within me comes at times when I’m not able to actually write it down.

    With ten years of journals to go through, I would rather be able to get what’s coursing through me now into a document as quickly as possible.

    Thanks, Eros, for your push, for sharing what you know based on your experience, and for being a friend.

  3. More Facebook crew (and my talented big sis!0:
    Deborah K Morgan at 5:04am March 3
    Ha…been hanging out in my undies for days upon days since the day of the macaw and ocelot! My delirious mind has fooled me into believing I could accomplish the loftiest of goals complete with a 104 temperature and chills and no thrills with the exception of the wild dreams of fever.

    My goals for this week are simple:

    1. Step into the light of day and breathe fresh air.

    2.Look for a rainbow.

    3. Go back to school and work and return to the world.

    4.Finish taking notes for a paper so I can take my grossly overdue library books back before the univ library police lock me up in the dungeon.

    I think I got some of my goals accomplished from last week before the extreme makeover flu hit me broadside like a tsunami.


  4. Well, I managed to get some stuff done. I don’t really remember what was on the last goal list, so I don’t know how much of it was actually there, but this is what I accomplished:

    1) Talked to my shark expert to incorporate some actual science into my shark attack/murder script (ok, I actually did that today so technically it’s not a last week thing);

    2) Managed to rewrite another 20 pages or so of the afore-mentioned script;

    3) Got my manager to read my pitch and agree that it’s time to set up that meeting we’ve been putting off;

    5) Had many conference calls about many projects, one of which is below;

    6) Had a meeting with the academic team for the new hush-hush secret project;

    7) Brainstormed some story ideas for the same secret project.

    This week’s goals:

    1) Begin a rough outline of you-know-what (oh wait, you don’t know what. It’s secret);

    2) Finish the 2nd draft of Great White Lie;

    3) Dive;

    4) Watch all my “With the Angels” episodes surrounded by dear friends and colleagues;

    5) Help my friend Jonathan celebrate his birthday;

    6) Do some running;

    7) Get the dogs to the park (I never did manage that one last week – jsut boring round-the-block walks);

    7) Maybe write a spot of fiction in my spare time.

    That’ll do for now!

    • You are a full-on flurry of creativity!!!
      Dang, next time I have the pleasure of being in your company I am going to try to figure out how to capture some of your get-go….I love it!
      I have the feeling you are going to keep torturing me with this secret project thing. I am going to tell my husband because he will be oh, so appreciative of it – he loves torturing me because I am the type of person who is so intolerant of anticipation that I skip ahead just to get the answers whereas he doesn’t mind waiting, in fact he relishes it.
      I am loving this!

  5. Well, I think I did everything on my list from last week (can’t find my response to that blog so I’ll make a list of accomplishments instead):

    1) Got my uni desk 95% setup and running
    2) Typed up notes from one of the books for my thesis
    3) Met some people, went to some meetings, made friends (no enemies that I know of yet)

    So goals for this week include:
    1) Finish reading ‘Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” by Jonathan S. Foer
    2) Have tutorials planned and rearing to go
    3) Finish current chapter of ‘New Media Poetics’ and type up notes on it
    4) Finalize my schedule (and room #s) and print it out (not knowing the rooms is stressing me a pinch)
    5) Get the darned IT department to hook-up my laptop to the uni network so I can do more with it.

    I’ll be happy if I get 1-4 done, as 5 is mostly out of my hands (aside from persistence). So several thoughts for you from the past few days:

    1) You would LOVE ‘Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.’ It’s a post-9/11 piece from the perspective of a precocious and very bright boy. What’s great about the book is that it plays a lot with the materiality of the book and introduces a lot of ‘experimental’ literary devices which I think you’d find interesting (such as red markings, plays on page space, images and more). I’m only a third of the way through it and I’m absolutely tickled that I get to do a tutorial on it.
    2) Not sure if you’ve looked any further into Zotero or not, but I wanted to make a second push for it. I’ve decided to go all out with it and make it my tool of choice for my thesis (I tested Endnote and it sucks big time in comparison). Here’s my working library thusfar: http://www.zotero.org/adamreid83/13095/items
    Scroll down and click on the book “New Media Poetics” and you’ll see a huge list of excerpts from the book that I’ve typed up. And since all the notes are searchable, or I can print them all out if I want, it makes it far more ideal than ruffling through notes in books and post-its everywhere (my method by default for my master’s). I know you’re quite a bit into your master’s already, so you may not want to switch methods now, but if you’re craving something with organization, this is most definitely it.
    3) I thought Tuesday was your Blog day… estoy confusado
    4) I wanna play sometime. I’m having Alegra-withdrawl.
    5) That is all.

      • Omigeod puleeze…! You know I love it! In fact, I would get depressed if you started leaving one line responses…the whole point of this is to communicate with one another so never ever not ever never ever hold back!
        mucho loves right back atcha

    • I post the blog on NZ Tuesdays so it will be USA Mondays but last night (it was officially NZ Tuesday because it was past midnight) I couldn’t sleep so I decided to get up and write the blog while my mind was whirring.

      On the masters – I only feel like I am just beginning to hit stride and I definitely need something like Zotero, so thank you for reminding me. I am going to add that to my list right now. The ‘feeling behind’ is making me slightly anxious which is why I was up blogging at midnight! But I know I will get there. I’ll check out what you’ve done so I can get an idea and again, thank you for the nudge. I am slow to take on these things and than once I do, I always think to myself, “WHY DID I NOT DO THIS SOONER??” I know it will save me much time and agony.

      How many tutorials are you doing this semester? I am having tutorial-withdrawals but it just didn’t make sense to do it this semester. At least I will have those 3 weeks of lecturing on Children of Men again – I am hoping to really get into this semester as it will be the second time and I won’t be so nervous about all of it.

      I have had that book recommended to me — I will have to check it out now!

      Yes, we need to play. Team A and A need another Walk of Fame to dance along, yes? I miss working side by side with you. Hopefully the future will see us together again up in Auckland.

      And Sir Dubious Sleuth I was so looking forward to having you give your anxiety a super hero identity!

  6. Ok, sorry I didn’t reply to your reply sooner (that’s an interesting sentence right there. . .)
    If you check out our blog theres an entry on the school that I work at. It’s an EBD and ASD (Emotional Behavioural Disorder and Autistic Spectrum Disorder, ADHD, Aspergers, Autism, that sort of thing) school and some of the boys have had a very rough upbringing (a couple of them are actually in Foster Care as well) which, coupled with their issues, makes them very very angry.
    Children of Men is such an awesome movie; Shelley and I really love it!
    Do not feel embarassed about the technology thing – I didn’t even know how to do it, otherwise I would’ve helped you out and told you!!
    On the upside – I did manage to get some writing done and Shelley and I are currently laxing out on the couch drinking a glass of wine together!!

  7. Wow!
    I am so impressed with what you are doing…although it doesn’t surprise me, you have the gentle nature and imagination to handle that sort of environment – with that maternal no-nonsense streak. I think I would be really overwhelmed with that type of challenge – I bow respectfully at your choice to take that on.

    Yes, I love Children of Men and I loved teaching it last semester. I am really looking forward to returning to it because some of the issues I touched upon feed into my research for the novel – plus, I won’t be so nervous exhausted this time round.

    Enjoy the wine and the snuggles

  8. What an extraordinary find this blog is – I don’t think I’ve read anything so honest and introspective in ages!

    Thanks for the insight Alegra. Metaphors are great. And like any well constructed metaphor, you allowed it to flow, flower, and finish before it inevitably failed.

    Now, off to scribble a list! Where did I put that pencil…


    • So glad you found me!
      And thank you, sometimes I worry that I have metaphoritis.
      Please, share your list once you have found your pencil…I believe in the strength of well-gathered peer pressure.

  9. Alegra,

    Zotero is a plug-in for Firefox. I have it on my Firefox browser, but haven’t quite perfected it’s use (probably because I haven’t put much time into it yet – hehehe). But, I just took a quick look and all the research work through JSTOR I’ve done on my last two papers was collected automatically by Zotero – complete with citations! Nice!

    You can get it here:


    Go fetch little doggie! I think you’ll like this bone!


    • I downloaded last night and started to play around with it – I love its potential! I am trying to figure out how to get it to do the bibliography for books – does it do it only for journal articles?
      I am going to have to buy Adam some Jiffy peanut butter for putting me on to this – it seems like an enormous time saver and great organizer once it is mastered.

    • Thank you Barbara
      I have missed staying in contact, so I am glad to see you here!
      Yes, lofty indeed. This week’s goals are going to be necessarily more humble *sigh* but believe me, by next week I am sure I will pick up steam again ;o)
      I will give Pepita a big cuddle for you.

  10. Crazy, after reading the blog then the comments, I’d forgotten what the blog was about!So now I’m going back to skim over it again. SO, it seems that a lot of your struggles are focussed around procrastination. This is something I am very familiar with.Very familiar. It doesn’t matter how important something maybe I can still easily avoid getting it done. I have no idea why, but it has been a bad habit of mine for a long time.

    But somehow I have managed to have a very normal life. And I even managed to finish positive things e.g. my qualifications. I can barely imagine what kind of pressure you have placed upon yourself trying to finish your novel and your masters…did you finish your masters? That’s something I’ll most likely ask you later tonight anyway. The excitement and the jubilation that we feel when we finally complete something important is an amazing feeling. Having children you can easily understand this. I have never been one to make lists. I have done it in the past and in recent times to BUT as usual I either end up adding more before I tick off other items on my list OR I just forget about the list itself. It’s like I need to make a list to remind me to use my list! Again having your friends around you to help support you on your journey is the best thing possible. Kudos to you.

    • It’s so interesting revisiting these blogs through your comments! I realize how much I have learned and how far I have come. Procrastination is an interesting thing because I’m actually a very disciplined person – what has gotten in my way in the past is fear or over extending myself beyond what is possible to achieve without super powers. I got through my uni education without a single extension until my masters at which point I became pregnant with Joaquin and hit my wall! My novel was completed but the masters is still *almost* there – a new lesson in being gentle with myself!

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