As some of you may know I write for our local newspaper, ‘The Foothills’.
Once a year, at about this time, the paper runs a ‘short story/poetry only’ edition.
The piece that I submitted had been written a few months earlier and filed away. Initially, I wrote it for my own amusement and I was pleased with the way it turned out.
I decided to submit this piece even though it was a bit too long. If it didn’t make the cut, then so be it.
The story is basically a ‘day in the life’ of a dog. His birthday, in fact. It recounts the actual day, which brings me to why you are reading this.
The piece got published and part of it describes the walk we took in the evening. It was a large gaggle of humans and dogs and the telling of it went a long way to illustrating the way that this dog sees his world.
None of the other humans were named but I’m sure they would recognise themselves. I’m absolutely sure, in fact, as I just received a curt SMS requesting that I not include this person’s dogs in any more of my stories.
Apparently my portrayal of them as being ‘naughty’ (the dog’s point of view remember) will only increase the public’s negative perception of their breed.
The reality is that they are badly behaved when they walk with their owner as she does not see the need to make them behave.
But whether they are, or are not, badly behaved is not the point of this essay.
At the moment, I’m not a very good fiction writer but I am passable at non-fiction so I thought that I was going to have to wait until I wrote the ‘great Australian novel’ before my friends ostracised me for putting them into my work.
I’ve seen it plenty of times in the movies so I’ve had more than enough time to prepare my ‘surprise’ at my friends outrage. But, frankly, I thought I would not have to bring my silent movie acting skills into play for many years to come, if ever, and now I find a friend outraged at the description of their dogs as being ‘naughty’.
I guess I should be grateful that she read what I had written.
So what did I learn from all of this?
Firstly, that people are basically crazy, and I include myself in that.
Secondly, no matter how hard you try to communicate clearly in print mostly people are going to read what they think you said as opposed to what you actually said.
Thirdly, don’t take people’s strange reaction to your work too seriously.
And fourthly, you cannot please everyone.