The easiest way to describe my dog Popeye to you is to say, “Men with award-winning mustaches stop us to tell us how beautiful he is.” He’s a 90 lb. American bulldog, Johnson variety, white, with black spots that are on his skin but not his fur. He’s a rescue, pretty happy-go-lucky all things considered, well mannered. His biggest drawback is if you don’t kennel him in this, he’ll break out with his face.

The other big problem with our dog is, as soon as another dog gives him that look, that, You wanna go? evil eye, he’s all: Yes, please! Around most dogs, he’s okay. One of my mother-in-law’s dogs, always starts fights (let’s call him D-Bag to protect the innocent). Putting Popeye and D-Bag in a room together is a recipe for disaster. They’re both being set up for failure (specifically, biting).

It’s easy to do that as a writer as well. While I love the idea of things like NaNoWriMo (and I should be outlining in case I again decide last minute to participate) I don’t know if they’re for everyone. For some people, that much writing, that quickly, is setting themselves up for failure. In the end, I don’t know if it matters so much what your goal is as long as you reach it. Nor is it really the end of the world to miss a few reasonable goals.

During the dog fight (you knew one was coming) husband had Popeye by the scruff, while my father-in-law was still getting D-Bag under control. He’s an old ass English bulldog, and wouldn’t you know the one thing not falling apart in his dotage would be his mouth? This is the part where Popeye, and my husband for that matter, get bit.

Dogs fight. I’m not a fan of it, I do everything to avoid it, as do all owners, but it happens. As a writer, frustration happens, emotions build to stifling levels, and you miss your private goals, or your writing feels stagnant.

It’s one thing for D-Bag and Popeye to get into it once, quite another for it to keep happening. It’s the same thing with succeeding as a writer—you can have a bad day or week, you can miss your goals, as long as you don’t keep doing that.

Part of it is recognizing your limitations. We decided to give Popeye’s leg 24 hours to chill out before we took him to the vet. While the puncture wounds were draining, the inflammation was bad, and he was uncomfortable. We gave him some post-op meds my mother-in-law had. Even though it wasn’t a full dose for him (being prescribed for a dog nearly a third his weight) it knocked him out pretty good. That night he woke us at 4 with a private mouth licking party, or at least every time I opened my eyes and told him, “Stop licking,” his head was up and all the noise coming from his chops or flus.

This went on until we gave him more meds, and they kicked in, a few hours later. I’d gotten like 4 hours of sleep. He wasn’t putting weight on his leg, so it was time to take him to the vet and hope they didn’t charge a fortune because it’s OBX (we took him here, it was $200 and he’s been a million times better ever since so we’re happy).

The first day, when he’d been drugged up, I’d just been hanging out with him, and I reached my goal of writing 3k for the Geek Love Anthology. No flipping way was that happening the next day. I managed to bang out 1k, half asleep, and I was completely happy with that, or deliriously tired, one of the two.

In fact, later that day, I was blithely drooling on my pillow when my husband came in the room and got me up. “Hey, wake up, you have to drink this bloody Mary.” I didn’t remember what he said, but lay on the bed, just barely awake, and kept looking at the bloody Mary, thinking I need to drink that.

There was a point to all this though. Getting 3k on that little sleep while fretting about the dog was a ridiculous goal. I excused myself from working and said I’d do the next 3k tomorrow. I think it’s because I didn’t have anything specific in mind I got the 1k done. If I hadn’t modified my goals, I would have approached the task with loathing instead of a something is better than nothing attitude. For that matter, doing 6k in 2 days isn’t unreasonable for me, but 21k in 7 days is.

So, set reasonable goals, drink a beer to celebrate when you meet them, and two to commiserate failure, but get back on that bulljerk, and keep him away from D-Bags.

My bulljerk, looking uncertainly at my husband’s boss. It’s like he thinks he’s a little dog.