Earlier this summer, my husband, the dogs, and I took a trip to Yellowstone National Park. One of our excursions was to the Yellowstone Lake area, which boasts a wide and deep lake as well as a beautiful, charming yellow hotel which was originally built in 1891 and extensively expanded in 1903. Windows of the lobby and dining area of the grand accommodations look out upon the vast blue body of water. I’ve dined at this restaurant a few times, being serenaded, along with other guests, by a fabulous piano player. It’s an amazing experience with vistas of nature, relaxing music, and delicious food. Go there if you ever have opportunity!
While at the Lake area during this summer’s trip, Greg and I took the dogs for a short walk in a picnic area. Mary, our springer/cocker mix, began barking, and we noticed another family of picnickers nearby. We shushed her and continued our little jaunt, with Cody, our 17-year-old cocker and I in front. As he and I rounded a bend in the trail, we came within five feet of a bull bison resting in a grove of trees. Yellowstone Park rules say to not be any closer than 25 feet from a bison, elk, or other large, non-predatory animal. We certainly broke that rule! (but not on purpose). The bison was camouflaged by the trees and it wasn’t until we nearly stepped on him that we saw his massive presence. Fortunately for us, he didn’t get up from his siesta, and we were able to slowly but persistently back up to the car, with me carrying an aged Cody in my arms. Mary continued her barkfest and thankfully the bull bison didn’t take her onslaught as a threat (the temperature was nearly 90 degrees, so I’m sure he thought staying in the shady tree grove was better than expending energy on a couple of tourists and their dogs!). Lesson: you never know what’s around the bend. (Second lesson: your dog may know more about what’s around the bend than you, so it may pay off to listen to and heed your dog’s vocals!)
Life’s future is a mystery – we don’t know with certainty what it holds. We can make plans and we can hope, dream, and take steps toward goals. Yet, a health problem, family situation, financial setback can offset those plans. At age 19, I planned to marry a guy I met in college; he met someone else and left me. I had to alter my plans – the future I had anticipated completely changed. I’ve had jobs that I thought would be the “cat’s meow” as they say … but something, actually someone in both cases, caused major problems for me and other colleagues and so I moved on instead of staying in a hostile work environment. We never know what’s around the bend.
Sometimes that’s true for our writing as well. We start off with an idea, plan out (or semi-plan out, depending on if you’re a plotter or a pantser) scenes, characters, plots, situations, etc. and at times the storyline takes a detour and we don’t know what’s around the bend … or, when we go around the story’s bend we discover a new path for our story’s characters. At times we encounter a great obstacle around that bend, just like that bull bison became an obstacle to us continuing along the trail (sometimes we authors refer to such an obstacle to as writer’s block… or it may be that something just doesn’t jive with our story line). And, just like my husband, dogs, and I had to back up to our car, we writers may have to back up a bit in our story and re-think where we’re going with the idea.
Life is that way as well. We come to a bend in the road and we may have to back up a bit and approach the situation differently. I have many friends facing unexpected events, including health issues, relationship issues, and financial issues. At times, we have to look at these problems and decide whether to move forward (and if so, quickly or cautiously?) or to pull back a bit and ponder awhile.
I attended the annual Global Leadership Summit (GLS) earlier this month and came away with several great take-aways, including: (1) Build your confidence – step through your fears; (2) Build your connections – expand your relationships; (3) Improve your competence – through education and/or mentoring; (4) Strengthen your character – read, grow, challenge yourself, make wise choices; (5) Increase your commitment – to yourself, your loved ones, your career/writing. Each of these can make us ponder the next step, think about what’s around the bend, and plan to move in a certain direction. Yet, we may come across an obstacle and so we have to back up and approach it a different way.
I am doing that with my writing. I’m currently re-thinking some of my book writing projects. I have four WIP, and I am considering taking a different course for the remainder of the year. I’m considering writing some helpful nonfiction, such as “How to Better Care for Your Senior Dog.” My Kindle book “Help, My Dog is Going Blind: Now What Do I Do?” is reaching people around the world. Sales have dramatically increased during the past few months with minimal marketing endeavors. I plan to increase those efforts as this little booklet is very helpful for pet parents who are concerned about the health and safety of their blind furry friends, for those who, like Greg and I nearly 15 years ago, were incredibly shaken and scared when we first heard the news “Your dog is going blind.” I want to continue helping people better care for their pets, such as their senior dog, their deaf dog, their three-legged dog. Because I so earnestly believe in pet ownership responsibility, I can be a catalyst to help people care for their pets for the rest of the animals’ life by providing words of encouragement and tips for a better life for both pet and pet owner.
This is a bend in my writing road, and though I don’t know yet what’s beyond the bend, I will take steps forward to see, applying some of those “take-aways” from the GLS. If I need to, I’ll back up a bit and re-evaluate the situation. But, I am excited to continue the journey in all its mystery, including eventually finishing those four WIP! (sometime in the future…!)
How about you? How do you handle bends in the road, personally and professionally?
Gayle M. Irwin is writer, author and speaker. She is the author of several inspiring dog books for children and adults, including Sage’s Big Adventure, Walking in Trust: Lessons Learned with My Blind Dog, and two dog devotion books: Devotions for Dog Lovers: Paws-ing for Time with God and Devotions for Dog Lovers 2: Sage Advice. She is also a contributing writer to five editions of Chicken Soup for the Soul. She’s also authored a guidebook for owners of blind dogs, available on Kindle. She has a passion for pets and volunteers for and donates a percentage of her writing revenues to several animal welfare organizations. Her speaking engagements include presentations for children and adults about the lessons people can learn from pets. Visit her website at www.gaylemirwin.com.