My favorite dog command is Leave It. It’s also a reasonably difficult one to teach. Just like all pups and babies, everything Kassi sees goes into her mouth. A table corner as she walks by, a hickory nut in the back yard, you name it. Even though we have a fenced yard, I still take Kassi out on a leash instead of just putting out her to do whatever she wants to. I want to see what she puts in her mouth. When she goes for that stick, I give her a little tug, tell her to “Leave it,” and move on.
I still use this command with Sunny. He’s curious and not opposed to trying to sneak something into his mouth, too. One day during the summer quite a while ago, I let Sunny out on the deck to bask in the sun; heaven for a ridgeback. I was in the kitchen fixing a cup of coffee and about five minutes later he was bouncing around instead of napping. I went and immediately heard this strange metallic sound coming from his mouth. I told him to sit, which he did, then I gave him the leave it command. Sunny opened his mouth and a cicada flew out, clicking and clattering as it went. It was funny, but I was relieved that it wasn’t one our resident bumblebees that flew out of his mouth instead of that cicada. I have a ton more Leave It stories, but I think you get the idea.
It’s a great command for writers, too. Old and new. There are million distractions in the world that can keep us from doing the work we need to do. Social media is a necessity, but it can be a rabbit hole you never climb out of. TV. Kids. Yard work. Whatever. Again, you name the distraction. But, like Kassi and Sunny everything that they put in their mouth may not be good for them, neither is everything that distracts us.
I tell myself Leave It a lot these days. I do my best to focus on writing when I write, but it’s hard. I have a lot to do. Here are a few tips that work for me. Turn everything off. Email notifications, phones, TVs, anything that might interrupt that next sentence. It might be hard, but chances are nothing earth shattering is going to happen in that half hour or hour that you disconnect and focus on writing. Write at night when the world is quiet, or early in the morning. Try and find the time in your life when there are no distractions. Or make them as few as possible. Maybe then you can access your best work.