I thought that the act of writing would be like reading, but more intense. You know that feeling you get when you’re transported by a story? You’re snug under a blanket on a gray day, sipping cocoa and surrounded by contented, sleeping dogs. The German word is gemütlichkeit; in Danish, it’s hygge. An NPR article on hygge, describes it as the pursuit of everyday happiness, the art of creating a nice atmosphere. Hygge builds in elements of togetherness, savors simple pleasures, and emphasizes relaxation and comfort on an everyday basis.
When I was eight years old, I read a modern translation of Le Morte d’Arthur and it profoundly influenced my life. I was drawn in by the egalitarian concept of theRound Table, where everyone seated had equal status. Even more enlightening was the concept of a warrior ethos:
Thou shalt respect all weaknesses, and shalt constitute thyself the defender of them.
Thou shalt not recoil before thine enemy.
Thou shalt never lie, and shalt remain faithful to thy pledged word.
Thou shalt be generous, and give largesse to everyone.
Thou shalt be everywhere and always the champion of the Right and the Good against Injustice and Evil.
There have been many famous and talented writers who had special pets in their lives.
Mark Twain owned a “large and intensely black” cat named Bambino who went missing from his household when he lived in New York. This author offered a $5 reward for the return of his beloved pet. While the entire world lined up at his door with an assortment of cats just to meet the great Mr. Clemens, Bambino eventually returned of his own accord and saved his owner the reward money. I have two enormous black cats, so logically, I should be twice as amusing a writer as Mr. Clemens.
Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s constant companion was a Cocker Spaniel named Flush. She was one of the most prominent poets of the Victorian era. I have no talent for poetry, but I do own a Cocker Spaniel named George. Based on this connection, I hold out hope that I will one day wake up with a sudden ability to write lyrically.
John Steinbeck had a near-final, handwritten draft of his classic work Of Mice and Men eaten by his dearly loved Irish setter, Toby. Now, that’s what I’m talking about.
When I decided to start writing full-time, I was under the impression that I would turn into a reclusive author. I had visions of holing up in the house as a snowstorm raged outside, typing away on book after book, a dog curled up nearby, and a hot cup of coffee in easy reach. Too soon, I was disabused of these notions as I learned that writers must engage in an obscene amount of marketing, so that a book will find its audience. To me, this seemed a damned shame, since my basic nature seemed to align so well with the fantasy aspects of being a cloistered writer.