Dispatches From The Realm

Recently His Royal Highness Prince Obi, First of His Name, has been, shall we say, testing the limits of his power.

From constant entertainment with the most robust play companions in the realm, to the finest delicacies we his regents can procure, his demands are many and varied.

Of course, being only 1, and a dog, his demands are often unreasonable.

Outside. Inside. Play. Outside. Outside. Outside. Dig. LEAVE ME TO MY MUD YOU SCOUNDREL.

It alternates between being very funny and for-the-love-of-god-just-be-still frustrating.

And as with anything that pushes us to the limits of our tolerance, it has forced me to take a frank look at my ability to manage my own emotions.

My ability to remain cheerful and proactive under pressure.

My ability to bounce back when things go wrong.

My ability to forgive, show compassion, empathise.

If you’d told me a year ago a dog would trigger all this, I would have been skeptical to say the least.

But trigger it he has, and honestly, I have to be grateful — because it’s made me much, much better when dealing with people.

I’ve learned a lot from Obi about how fear can make you irrational. How scarcity can make you defensive. How the past always lingers just below the surface of the present.

And, too, I’ve learned that play can be healing, that trust blooms slowly and surely over time, and that the more beloved tribe members you have, the better.

All of which is profoundly important in this line of work.

Writing is about identifying and connecting deeply with the lived experience of other people.

To do that, you have to be able to put yourself not just in someone else’s shoes, but inside their body, feeling their fears as they do, feeling their hopes and dreaming their dreams as they do.  

It’s a constant practice in the realm of imagination.

How would I feel in that situation? What would make me react the same way they did? What are the thoughts, emotions, experiences that are in play for them right now?

It’s why writing is so fun, on one hand, and so important, on the other.

To sidle up alongside someone and present them to themselves — it’s a big responsibility, and just as much a thrill.

Do you find this process of imaginative empathy easy, or is it a challenge? Does it feel like an important part of your own writing or creative process? I’d love to hear about your own experiences with this.