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Last week, Ernest claimed the chair I consider mine. When I got out, he jumped in. When I wanted to sit down, I had to wrestle him out.  That’s why the photo shows Ernest lying in the chair.

The laptop is in the chair because one night several months ago, when the laptop was sitting on the floor beside the chair, its usual resting place, Ernest chewed through the cable running from the laptop to the fan beneath. The cable was hardwired, so I had to buy a new fan. The next night Ernest chewed through the cable running to the new fan. Fortunately, that cable was replaceable.

Ernest had never shown interest in any of the cables decorating our home, and he’d been peacefully coexisting with the fan cable for two years. I don’t know why he snapped.

I’ve now treated all wires and cables with dishwashing soap.

Anyway, since Ernest’s oral fixation got the best of him, the laptop has spent its nights in the chair, covered by a pillow. William sometimes sleeps on the pillow. On the day I took the photo, Ernest took possession of the chair before the laptop was tucked in.

That’s why Ernest is lying on the laptop.

While we’re on the topic, here’s a picture of the stationary bicycle I bought in January. At Academy. Brand new.

(William, I fear, though he’s neither gnawer nor clawer, may not be entirely innocent in this matter.)

When I discovered the bike’s new look, I wasn’t pleased. I’ve managed to convince myself, however, that function is more important than form. And form can be altered.

I could knit the bike a sweater. And buy Ernest a straightjacket.*

*

*I can hear readers saying, “What is wrong with this woman? Why does she put up with this?” For three reasons: 1. I love the cats, even Ernest. 2. They’re not generally destructive–don’t tear up carpets, baseboards, cabinet doors, so far haven’t broken any china (although I once came upon William on the verge of pushing the salt shaker off the table, so china isn’t a slam dunk,) and spend most days sleeping and being cute. 3. I don’t want a divorce.

Another fine mess…

Did you know that when you edit a monthly newsletter, you have to produce a newsletter every single month?

Well, you do.

You don’t publish an August issue and then just rest on your laurels.

 

In thirty days–fewer than that in February–another month rolls around, and you’re supposed to come up with something new. People expect it. They don’t want to read about last month.

Truly, there is no rest for the weary. Or for the wicked.
I am wicked.
I moan and whinge about the drudgery–Double, double toil and trouble–but once I start working, I also start having fun. I lose track of time. The latest issue missed my self-imposed deadline not just because the computer fell by the wayside, but because I kept tweaking: a link here, a comma there, delete this, insert that, bold this, italicize that, change black to red, red to black.
Eye of newt, toe of frog, wool of bat, tongue of dog…

 With fire burning and cauldron bubbling, and so many poisoned entrails, as well as thesaurus.com, at my disposal, I didn’t want to call it quits. Once again, I stayed up later than late, but I wasn’t laboring. I was playing. Concocting a brand new potion. Elixir. Charm. Beguilement.

If you want the pure, unadulterated version of my writing process, there it is.

And in a couple of weeks, it’s back to the cauldron again.

This time, though, there’s potential for sanity.

For the past couple of months, the assistant editor and I have been running as fast as we could to stay in the same place. Before the next issue comes out, we’re going to meet, discuss goals, nail down a format. I’ll show her what I can about using WordPress. She’ll come up with more good ideas. I’ll write them down so I won’t forget.

After we confer, the whingeing could abate.

But it won’t.

Because, contrary to decades of experience, I think I can do everything in five minutes.

Because my brain kicks in–really–at the last minute.

Because I do my best work–really–between 10:00 p.m. and 4:00 a.m.

Because I have these flashes of cock-eyed optimism that temporarily override my normally rational, pessimistic nature.

Because I like to whinge.

I mean, what do you think those Weird Sisters were doing, stirring that cauldron, waiting for Macbeth to wander in for a consultation? They were whingeing. It’s a good Scottish word, and they were Scottish Sisters, and, no matter how much pleasure they derived from their culinary endeavour, they’d been standing over a hot stove all night. Furthermore, quality frog toes aren’t easy to come by. What’s not to whinge about.

So expect no change. Proper prior planning may prevent weariness, but it won’t improve my character.

I’m wicked. And it’s comfortable. And I think it’s what I want to be.

********************

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William and I had a fight over which of us would occupy the recliner.

I won.

William retaliated by sitting on the keyboard and retitling this post.

I should have trashed it. Instead, I publish it as an example of the limitations under which I operate.

Les Liaisons Dangereuses, or The writerly thing to do

Cats are dangerous companions for writers because cat watching is a near-perfect method of writing avoidance.  ~Dan Greenburg

I returned home from Just for the Hell of It Writers filled with enthusiasm for the next assignment. Sat down in the recliner, put my feet up, booted up the laptop, read e-mail, checked a couple of blogs, and opened to write is to write is to write. I planned to compose a brief post about characterization–specifically, my reluctance to allow Molly, my protagonist, to exhibit less-than-stellar qualities, such as being human.

Before I could start, however, Ernest climbed into my lap. With the laptop already there, he didn’t have an easy time. He never does. But he made it.

So here I sit with a fuzzy gray tiger draped across my left forearm and wrist, cutting off blood flow to my hand. I don’t know how much longer my fingers will function. I don’t know how much longer this post will function either, because Ernest just touched something–a hot key or some other doohickey outside my sphere of knowledge–and it vanished. I’m lucky he didn’t delete it. Sometimes he does. When it comes to writing, cat watching is the least of my worries.

If he were on my left, I’d be fine with the arrangement. He used to perch there. But a couple of weeks ago he changed sides. As a result, I can’t use the mouse, and I have to bend my index finger at an unnatural angle to reach the touchpad. Periodically he throws his head back to let me gaze into his green, green eyes. That means he wants his ears scratched. 

 

I’ve tried moving him to the left, but he’s heavy and muscular, a feline Jesse Ventura. He’s also the master of his fate and the captain of his soul. After losing three consecutive matches, I gave up.

If you’ve read this far, you’re probably wondering why I don’t evict him from my person altogether.

It’s complicated.

There’s guilt. Yesterday I found him on the dining room table trying to eat a length of purple ribbon. I clapped my hands. That scared him. I spent the next five minutes trying to apologize. He spent the next five minutes evading capture. Then I realized that I’d forgotten to put out catfood on schedule, and that his acting out might have been caused by low blood sugar. I also considered that William, who has a wry sense of humor, might have dared him to jump onto the table. Ernest is impulsive, and I hadn’t taken into account the possibility of diminished capacity. I’m still making amends. 

 

Then there’s the purr. I’ve read that the vibration guards against bone loss and muscle atrophy. Some authorities believe that holding a purring cat benefits human tissue as well. Holding Ernest could protect my writing arm against osteoporosis. 

 

Furthermore, allowing cats a bit of leeway is a writerly thing do. Charles Dickens’ cat, Wilamena, had kittens in his study; the kitten Dickens kept later became his companion while he wrote. Raymond Chandler’s Taki, whom he called his “secretary,” sat on manuscripts he was trying to revise. T.S. Eliot sent his cats to Broadway. Mark Twain couldn’t resist cats, “especially a purring one.” I don’t know whether Garrison Keillor has cats, but he joined with the Metropolitan Opera’s Frederica von Stade to make an entire CD of cat songs (“Songs of the Cat”), and Bertha’s Kitty Boutique is one of The Prairie Home Companion’s most prominent sponsors. I can’t think of better role models than Keillor, Twain, and Von Stade. 

 

Finally, I allow Ernest to walk all over me because I’m concerned about mental and emotional balance. My own. Sigmund Freud emphasized the cat’s importance in coping with the stresses and strains of modern life: “Time spent with cats,” he wrote, ” is never wasted.”

Freud might not have known much about women, but he had a thorough grasp of cats.

Since I began this piece, Ernest has jumped down, back up, down, back up, and down again. William, who, bless his heart, parks on the left, has visited twice.

It’s not always easy to remember my reasons for being a doormat, especially the one about balance. But when the conscious mind fails, the subconscious defaults to guilt.

Well. Once again I’ve written about not writing. Once again the obstacle has been cats.

Greenburg is right. They’re dangerous companions.

*************

Sources:

Famous Cat Loving Authors and Pet Names

www.twainquotes.com

Wikipedia: Songs of the Cat

Thinkexist.com (Freud)

Thinkexist.com (Greenburg)

Frederica von Stade, Mezzo-Soprano

[Full disclosure: If I had my druthers, I’d emulate Miss Von Stade instead of the writers. She gets paid to sing, she doesn’t have to make up the words as she goes along, her picture appears on the front cover, the Amazon reviewers simply gush at her “magnificent” voice, and she doesn’t have to read Bird by Bird twice a month to keep her spirits up. What’s not to emulate?]

Many thanks to the author of “Invictus.” If we ever get a brother for William and Ernest, we’re going to name him Henley.


The daily miracle

The most serious problem the writer encounters is coming up with a topic, coming up with an original topic, finding the form you’re comfortable with, writer’s block, creating interesting characters, writing sparkling dialogue, finding your voice, weeding out unnecessary modifiers, weeding out passive voice, appealing to the five senses, revising, finding a good critique group, accepting criticism, polishing the manuscript, f inding an agent, selling the manuscript, hanging in there… forgetting how the process works, forgetting the process works, forgetting the process forgetting the daily miracle will come.