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~ Written by: Rick January, Author of Come Out To The Garden

How do you get creative? Is there something in particular you do when you are writing? Is there a particular time or place in which you find you can be at your creative best? Perhaps it’s a cup of tea or the William Tell Overture that gets your creative juices flowing. While writing Come Out To The Garden, I discovered that creativity came at not so much a particular time or place as during a certain activity. Although I did not plan it, my creativity seemed to appear while I was taking our dog for her daily walk.

Before going on, let me again give my wife credit as the inspiration for the book. It is dedicated to her and her love of gardening. But as much as my wife was the inspiration, it was while escorting the dog on her daily walks that the inspiration was put to verse. As we hurried along the sidewalk from one scent spot to another, those verses came to life. Without really intending to, I found myself creating the story while my dog trotted along, ears bouncing happily as she sought out the source of each new scent.

I’m one of those who believe that walking the dog is for the dog. Forgive me Cesar Milan, for I have sinned. My dog is usually out front, at the end of the leash, tugging to go faster as she sniffs each and every mailbox and the numerous places on the ground where something has left a scent. She even decides which of her potential routes to take on most days. Aside from some exercise, my primary function on these walks is to keep the dog out of trouble.

When you’re walking a dog, there’s not much to do but think. I found myself thinking about gardening, vegetables, and the special relationships that grandparents often have with their grandchildren. So while the dog would sniff, I would think. I would play with verses in my head as we scurried along. The pace was often just short of a jog. It’s important to a dog not to waste time getting from one source of scent to another. Her nose and my brain would both be hard at work. My legs were on auto control, functioning more to stay upright than for any other purpose. And then, STOP! Dogs have good brakes—four feet and a low center of gravity allows that. It can be quite startling to be literally jerked around in mid-thought by a dog reversing course to check out a scent she nearly missed. Like veggies tumbling from a tipped-over basket, the words sometimes spilled from my mind. As soon as I could get my bearings, I’d pick them up and try to put them back in their place before they were lost.

Day after day, walk after walk, the verses were created, modified, and stored to be committed to bits and bytes as soon as we would arrive back home. I’d read them to my wife, and we’d discuss what had been added. Certainly, there were times when those discussions led to changes in existing verses, or maybe even one or two new ones.

I found this process most valuable when our editor wisely suggested the need for some changes in the story to make it more complete. Instead of just letting the verses go where they may, now I had to create them with a specific purpose and direction. However well I did that remains to be seen. But I’m not sure at that time I could have created them anywhere but while on those walks.

Now that the book is in printing, Shelby the dog and I are still walking. I still think a lot, but I’m trying to focus the creativity on how to market and promote the book. The writing is done, and now it’s time to work to get the book in front of as many people as possible to see just how creative I actually was.

So back to my original question: How do you get creative? Perhaps you do have a specific time, place, or activity that works for you. Or maybe it will just come to you while walking along a sidewalk, with or without a dog. However or wherever you find it, I hope your creative moments are as joyful and rewarding as mine, regardless of whether you ever publish a book.

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Rick January lives in Georgia with Stella, his wife of 40 years who drew the illustrations for the book. Click here to learn more about Rick and Stella. Come Out To The Garden was released this month and is available in paperback hardcover.

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