This is what I want to say on this good morning with the crescent moon — once upon a time, when I was going to write, I had very specific needs or I couldn’t write at all: I required at least two hours of uninterrupted time, and preferably an hour or more after that, so that I shouldn’t feel rushed, and headphones, and specific music in my tape player, and a particular cafe, and a particular cup of coffee, and a particular pen in my particular notebook.
Now I’m actively writing while Miss Sophie bounds around me in the living room, squeaking the new super-loud toy that the Mr found for her, which she loves. (It sounds like an out-of-tune harmonica that someone attached to an erratic breathing machine.) Talk about gratitude for practice, persistence, and change.
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I need to be on the road in a little over an hour, to head up to Sacramento for today’s Reclaiming Our Erotic Story workshop. Last time, back in January, I had so much fun with this group; I’m looking forward to being back with them today!
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In my dream, an early morning dream, there were stuffed, like taxidermied animals floating away on the ocean. Something had happened to the places where they were being stored. A friend looked like she had a slug next to her nose, but when I got closer, I saw that it was a tiny duckling, dark pinfeathers shimmering in the changing light — it was saving itself there against her body, on her face.
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Earlier this week, talking with an AWA friend and collaborator, I talked about what a pleasure it is to get to give my dog positive reinforcement, to train her by telling her what she’s doing right. In the past, with my last two dogs, certainly with the first one back in jr high, what I told her was everything she did wrong: wasn’t that how you learned? So she was punished for peeing in the house, punished for getting on the couch, punished for chewing on things, punished punished punished. We had a few dog treats — I remember the box of Milk Bones, but what did we even use those for? Not for training, that I recall. We had the rolled up newspaper, we pushed her nose in the poop when she went in the wrong place. All this brings tears to my eyes now; I hated it, then, and sometimes, too, it gave me a sense of power. This was how I knew, how I understood, to teach her. Didn’t most of our teachers focus on what we did wrong, rather than spending a lot of time on what we did right? If you did that, the dog would get spoiled, the kid would get a big head.
Is it easier now, since I found AWA (and, too, know lots of people who train their dogs well using positive reinforcement)? With AWA, we focus on what’s going well, what folks are doing right, what’s strong already — and we teach each other that way. We reinforce the excellent, and gently encourage around the stuff that might improve. In a roomful of people writing their guts out, wanting to be true to their own stories, we use positive reinforcement to teach one another: when we say to one writer, “I really appreciated that metaphor, when the narrator described themselves as driving into the moon” — the whole group pays attention, listens, grows. And it’s a pleasure.
It’s a pleasure to get to be kind to one another. It’s a pleasure to get to be kind to my pup. It means I, too, want to do it more, want to be more clear with our guidelines, more consistent with our training, because then I get to praise her, and she praises me back. A gift.
This is an open-prompt Saturday: If you could have the two hours I described at the top of the post to write about anything, what would that be? Leave a comment, if you want to! And then, consider giving yourself 15 minutes, or 20, at least, to write about that, to step in, to give your own writing some positive reinforcement. Then, too, give yourself some good praise: a tasty cup of coffee, maybe, or a long walk.
Well done! I’m grateful for you. Thanks for your words.