Chelsey Johnson Recommends...

“Have a dog, or get one, or borrow one. I have two, a serene pit mix with soulful eyes and a scholarly three-legged border collie–heeler mix, and they get me into and out of my head like nothing else. I use an app called Time Out that darkens my screen for five minutes, every twenty-five minutes—a work trick called the Pomodoro Technique—and in those five minutes I leave my desk and go find one of the dogs to pet. While a sentence or problem turns over in my mind, my hands slide over his fur, I kiss his smooth forehead, I inhale the corn-chip scent of his ears, I look into his dark eyes. When you’ve been deep in your head for a while, it’s important to touch something warm and alive, something mortal. He won’t be here forever, and neither will I. And no matter the weather, the deadline, or the gnarled mess on the page, the dogs need to get outside. They are elderly now and very slow, and our walks have become like zen meditation, one step at a time. While the dogs sniff a single blade of grass for two minutes, I find myself looking around. I notice a raptor overhead, an interesting human face, an overheard conversation, something discarded or forgotten in the grass. Be here for the writing life and be here for the real life. Each needs the other.”
—Chelsey Johnson, author of Stray City (Custom House, 2018)