I’ve just been for a walk with Foyle, our 3 month old Labrador Puppy. It was our first walk to the other side of the river, where we met a lovely West Highland Terrier named Sam. He and Foyle were playing happily and Sam’s owner and I were chatting when another pair of Westies arrived and were let off the lead to join the game. Then another arrived and its owner smiled and undid the lead on its leash. There was my golden lab puppy, suddenly surrounded by a sea of white West Highland Terriers. One of the Westies hated puppies, and though Foyle laid down and showed his tummy, it kept lunging at him until he cowered at my legs. I actually had to lift Foyle away from his tiny little teeth.
As we walked away, waving to the nice doggies with the nice owners (and inwardly cursing the nasty one), Foyle saw two labradors on the other side of the river and heaved a tremendous sigh. He’d spent Monday with his mother, grandmother and two siblings and he clearly missed hanging out with his own breed.
Knowing your own breed is important for writers, too. It’s important to know who you are and how that relates to your writing. Not so much because it helps your writing process, but because it helps you, as a writer, to establish yourself, to talk about your work intelligently and to communicate the worth of what you are writing to other people.
Even after seven books, I’m still not good at this. I’m still not sure I’ve found my breed…and I’m not the only one. I was talking to a mate the other day – another successful writer. She was saying that she doesn’t frame the discourse of her work properly; that she thinks she misses out on things because she doesn’t talk about her work in a way that allows other people to see who she is and where she fits.
I want to know, like Foyle, when I’ve been bitten because I’m playing with the wrong bunch. I want to know what I’m going to look like, when I grow up. I want to know my breed.