‘Don’t forget to snack!':
A lesson in writing from Django

by Conrad on January 27, 2011

The most productive part of the writing day — Conrad and Django at Alki Beach.

Nobody understands the power of peripheral vision better than Django.

Django (pronounced JANGO) is a standard poodle named after the Belgian jazz guitar legend Django Reinhardt. Each morning while I write, he inches into my periphery so that I become aware of him by slow degrees, the way one becomes aware of, say, a change in temperature. Then — bang! — I am aware. He has wrenched me from my cozy fictional playground into the harsher, prosaic “real” world.

The instant our eyes meet, Django raises a paw and transmits this message telepathically: “It’s snack time.”

In Django’s mind, the most powerful word in English is not “No!” It’s “cheese!” He will do anything short of a felony for a bite of Tillamook Medium Cheddar.

How does Django’s behavior lend itself to writing? First, he keeps me company. He’s not as well-mannered as Ernest Hemingway’s springer spaniel, “Black Dog,” who would curl at the author’s feet and not twitch a muscle until Ernest had set down his pencil for the day. Black Dog revered the craft of writing and his master. Django does not.

On the other hand, Django understands that we must get on with life — must get out there and sniff the wind, chase the ball, and wag the tail.

At day’s end, we go for a walk, along the bluff and down to the water. Django splashes in the creek. Tugs on the leash. Barks at other dogs. On a lucky day, we spot an eagle or sea lion. In short, we do the most important thing a writer can do — get distracted by life — it’s little, tasty snacks. These “snacks” may be the most productive parts of my writing day. My best ideas often reveal themselves while Django and I are out walking.

By day’s end, Django has more than earned that slice of Tillamook Medium Cheddar. He’s earned a bacon chew strip as well.

His message to me, and all writers:

“Keep it real — and don’t forget to snack.”

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