By Christine Carron
A few weeks ago, my friend Carol Brown posted photos of her dog Erik participating in a dog agility event. I am lucky to have many dog training friends, and many of my dog training friends participate in the sport of dog agility, which means I get to see photos of many amazing dogs (and trainers) in agility action. Even so, Carol’s photos stopped me in my tracks. In a word, I was awed.
A couple of years ago, Carol Brown and I were in Susan Garrett’s mastermind dog training group (ICPeeps) together. One month, I set out to do a 30-day training extravaganza focused on one of Susan’s foundational games called Crate Games. Carol joined in the fun with her recently adopted rescue dog Erik.
Each day Carol and I posted a video of us playing Crate Games with our respective dogs. My sense of Erik at that time was that he, like many rescue dogs, was nervous, a little hesitant, and not fully sure of himself. Everyday, Carol met him where he was, building his skill and confidence layer by layer.
With the pandemic, and with working on Goodjelly and the revisions on my novel, I was not privy to the training Carol continued to do with Erik. Hence me being gobsmacked when Carol posted these recent photos of Erik. Gone was the hesitant, worried dog. Here was a dog, ears-up confident, joyful, and clearly rockin’ his fine self.
I could not stop thinking about the contrast between Before Erik and After Erik, and about all the love, intention, and effort Carol so clearly put into building Erik’s skills and confidence. It soon struck me how Carol and Erik’s journey is a perfect metaphor for the interplay of vulnerability and strength that is at work on our writerly adventures.
We all have an Inner Erik inside of us. A part who can feel unsure, worried, tails tucked about whatever it is we are working to land on the adventure. The basics of writing or storytelling when we are just getting started. But as we wrap our heads around plot, character, setting, pacing, we must also learn how to carve out time for our writing, how to edit and revise effectively, how to receive and give critiques, how to query, how to pitch, how to work with an editor, how to market ourselves and our books, etc., etc., etc.
Even when our Inner Erik is confident enough to leap over one hurdle, for any writer actively on the journey, there will be other new challenges. Challenges that will result in tail tucked nervousness and doubt. Such is the writerly adventure.
Now, perhaps you might be thinking at this point, “let’s just shut these Inner Eriks down.” Get a thick skin already. Forge ahead. Ignore them. Stuff them away. Maybe even try for full disavowal.
Careful with that approach.
We need our vulnerability. It enables us to write with passion, with connection, with potency, with exquisite sensitivity. The more adept we are in embracing and attending to our vulnerability both in life in general and on the writerly adventure, the more adept we will be in channeling it in our writing. We want our Inner Eriks to know they have a safe place to play. Where they can be themselves. That’s where our Inner Carols come in.
Our Inner Carols are the parts of us who can meet our more vulnerable selves, our Inner Eriks, wherever they are, and do so with kindness, understanding, and leadership. These inner Carols are not about punishing our vulnerability, or cutting it away, or expecting it to be anything other than its tender, open self.
Our Inner Carols protect our vulnerable selves and also help them flow from trepidation and doubt to competence and joy. In doing so, our Inner Carols embody the five Goodjelly Moves: Possibility, Power, Process, Grace, and Patience.
Possibility: Even when our Inner Eriks are filled with apprehension, hesitation, and/or doubt, our Inner Carols hold the vision of what is possible, steady and true. They never let current circumstances shake their faith in what is possible. They hold the shape of the journey for us, until our Inner Eriks can embody that possibility on their own.
Power: Our Inner Carols commit and take action. Theirs is not a power of force, but rather a power of presence. They are seekers. They assess methods, tools, teachers, and frameworks to decide which will help our Inner Eriks gain confidence and skill. They are discerning, sorting out not only what is good, but what is good for us.
Process: Our Inner Carols help us commit to the slow, steady work of growth. They don’t let us give up when the going gets hard, boring, or feels like it will never end. In moments where our Inner Eriks despair, they are there with encouragement and good cheer. Steady on, steady on.
Grace: Our Inner Carols lead from kindness and abundance. They are clear and precise. And instead of external measures (publishing deals, awards, accolades), they are focused on the frisky frolic of our writerly confidence, i.e., keeping our Inner Eriks’ tails wagging, heads up, and eyes bright.
Patience: Our Inner Carols are not fussed or flustered by the timeline our egos have for our writing career. They understand that sometimes we must bloom and sometimes we must cocoon; i.e., that a writing life requires a rhythm of both action and rest. Within that truth, our Inner Carols help us progress, but never at the cost of our health, confidence, or joy.
A challenge for all of us is that when our vulnerability is triggered, we can feel overwhelmed. Then we become like sweet Erik at the beginning of his journey with Carol. Tail-tucked, ears-down, near all consuming stress. In that state, often we look to external measures with a negative, all-or-nothing spin. I’ll never get this novel right. I’ll never get an agent. I’ll never get a deal.
And you know what? That is okay. Your Inner Erik is doing exactly what he is supposed to be doing. He is feeling. He is expressing. Vulnerability is his thing. Sorting himself out of an intensified state is not.
For that, look to your Inner Carol. Next time your vulnerability is in overdrive, allow your Inner Carol in. Allow her to meet your Inner Erik where he is. Allow them to play. And then watch as, soon enough, the joyful leaps happen. Tails up, ears high.
You have got this!
(And so do your Inner Carol and your Inner Erik. Woof!)
Thank you to Carol Brown and Erik for allowing me to share a small piece of their wonderful journey together. Also, a special shoutout to Carol's other fabulous dog, Roxy, who watched over Erik's training with grace and aplomb. She deserves a woofy wahoo, too! Here they both are, enjoying a well-earned rest after all this publicity.
The Goodjelly Prompt of the Week