Anyone who says animals have no concept of time has not (in my not-so-humble opinion) been around very many animals. Sure, maybe Pixel T. Cat starts cruising for squishy food around 4:30 when she knows darn well she doesn't get fed until five or later, but that's optimism (and, arguably, feline manipulation), not a fuzzy grasp of time. And have you ever rented a horse for an hour? The smart ones turn and head for home at minute twenty-nine regardless of their rider's alleged commands.
Back in the day when I was bringing up baby horses and teaching them how to be productive members of the equine community, one of the best tools in my arsenal was leaving things on a good note. Although repetition is a good way to learn, a smart baby horse will do things right the first time or two. If you keep going, though, they get this little horsey thought process going. To whit: "Since she keeps telling me to do the same thing, I must be doing it wrong. So next time I'll do something different. How about this? Or this?" And suddenly I would go from feeling like a rockstar to knowing I had blown it, at least for that moment of that day. So it was far better for me to quit while ahead, even if I had a whole plan mapped out for my training ride.
Some days, on certain horses, I would ride for five minutes, pat them and put them away. Hey, we had accomplished our goal. Why push it? Granted, as the animal got older and more advanced, I could do a pat-pat, maybe hand over a peppermint, and move on to something else. But with the babies, shorter was usually better.
So it was this past weekend that I felt like I had a good Mom moment with Wallaby. Craving grown-up writerly companionship, and with Arizona off doing Guy Stuff, I loaded myself and the little one into the Roo and hied us off to the local chapter meeting of Romance Writers of America. And if 'local chapter meeting' makes you think of AA or Al-Anon, yes, there are days I want to stand up and say, "My name is Doc Jess and I'm a writer…" And, yeah, maybe I've corrupted the Serenity Prayer a time or two. Anyway, back to the meeting.
Picture it: Me and Wallaby, and a hotel conference room full of his honorary aunties (and a couple of uncles), who have known me through a whole lot of ups and downs. And it's not like a girl can sneak anywhere pushing a gigantic stroller and loaded like a pack mule. So, yeah, we interrupted. And there were some squees of "Baby!" And ten minutes or so later, when the business meeting got to the "member news" section of things, our fabulous Jane (who was leading the meeting in the absence of our fabulous Gail) called me out and asked me to introduce our newest member.
Said member, having just started waking up from his car-ride-induced-coma, found himself whisked out of his car seat and held up in front of a whole lot of strangers. He was understandably confused.
That being said, he was a very good sport about it, and about the round of pass-the-baby that followed. Then he sat with me in the back and we watched a very good presentation from Stephanie Queen on indie publishing of multi-author boxed sets. Then there was lunch and another presentation on the docket, and I could have stayed for hours, enjoying my friends. However I felt the little trainer's time clock ticking down in the back of my mind, and I heard that old trainer's instinct whisper, "Get out while the getting's good." So instead of lunch and another talk, I loaded up the Giant Stroller and we hit the road with the baby still in his happy place.
And you know what? It was a far better experience for all concerned, I think, than if I had pushed him to trot one more twenty-meter circle or do another haunches-in.
So now, as I sit down to attack a new scene in a new book today (the concept of 'attack' being entirely predicated on the quality of nap time, mind you), I'm reminded that all of this applies to writing, too. Which is more interesting, the scene where the author describes the weather, the setting, the cop arriving at the station house for the day, grabbing her coffee, saying 'hey' to a few other cops, and then sitting in on a task-force meeting, getting her day's assignment and leaving the building to go question a witness … or the one where her boss slaps a new crime scene photo onto the murder board, skewers a finger in her direction, and tells her not to come back until she has a solid lead?
Yeah, I'd rather read option B any day. Rather write it, too. So I guess that's my mantra for the week: Get out while the getting's good!