Monday, April 26, 2010

Instinct vs. Training

Greetings Friends,

I've been ruminating a bit on the differences between instinct and training. Anyone who loves animals, dogs in particular, knows that to be a responsible dog owner, you must train your dog. Two weeks ago, I mentioned  my friend and her two well-trained greyhounds, and the topic of well-behaved dogs came up a few more times after that. With the proper training, dogs can be quite charming and obedient, but once they get a whiff of something or catch sight of that squirrel scampering across the park, instinct kicks in and all the training in the world goes right down the potty. They can't help it; they're animals, no matter how much we want to believe otherwise.

Take the Las Vegas duo Siegfried and Roy for example: In 2003, Roy Horn was unexpectedly mauled by one of his white tigers during a performance and never completely recovered. Prior to that accident, I attended their show and visited their Secret Garden animal habitat at the Mirage Hotel. In person, those white tigers are some of the most spectacularly beautiful animals I have ever seen. But...they are tigers, not house cats. We can train our animals as carefully as we can, but ultimately, instinct will triumph.

As a writer, I have "trained" and improved my skills over the years. When I look back at something I wrote 10 years ago, I think, geez - who wrote that? Even when I look at something I wrote 6 months ago, I see room for improvement. My instincts as a writer have always been there, but my training is a constant, evolutionary process. All writers have different skills; some are great at dialogue, some can write killer poetry, or have limitless vocabularies. Others can transport you to faraway places with the simplest of language and still more can flummox the crap out of you with multi syllabic jargon that gives you a migraine.

The beauty of an animal like one of those gorgeous white tigers can always be admired from afar; the wonderful, simplistic language of a writer like Hemingway will never go out of style (I hope). As long as we respect our instincts and are mindful of our training, life will continue to be a fascinating journey.



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