Monthly Archives: September 2011

Same Old Game

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I’m reading a book about reasons writers procrastinate and do anything (and I do mean anything) to avoid the actual act of writing.  So far so good.  I haven’t written a word of my novel in about 2 weeks…no, make that 4 weeks…damn, it’s worse than I thought.

While I have been distracted mightily by watching the new kitten sleep, getting the kids ready for school, by screaming and falling to my knees every time I see my shaggy hair and flabby body in a mirror, etc. I have still managed to post entries in this blog so what’s keeping me from opening Word and clicking on my novel (or any of the 25 half-written pieces languishing on my hard drive)?

Some obvious reasons come to mind:  fear, laziness, lack of drive, lack of talent, did I mention fear?  And yet, today, I forced myself to open the file entitled, “Longest Thing Wee Banshee Has Ever Written,” and scroll through its 178 pages, unfinished.  When I say “forced” I am not exaggerating – I would rather have walked down to my dentist’s office naked in the cold rain and asked for a root canal without anesthesia, please, than open that file.  I sat, fingers poised over the keyboard for a good five minutes before opening it.  This makes me sad because, at one point not so long ago, I was quite fond of the story.  What went wrong?  Is anything wrong?  Is this normal?  I have no idea.

I don’t know if other writers are like this but I am pretty good at talking myself out of a story.  That is why, until very recently, I’d never written anything longer than 25 pages.  Over that number and I know with absolute certainty I am going to fall over the edge of the world.  Once I get to a certain point where I really have to think and employ devices,reach deep and get creative, I back off.  I stretch, yawn, and kill everybody off and type “The End.”

One might think that sailing just up to the edge of the world and not going over the horizon is hard but I’ve never found it so.  Going the distance seems much harder (I can hear certain people who might be reading this muttering, “Lazy cow” at this point).  I really have no defense.  I’m the same way when I’m working out – I never push myself too hard.  I back off when things get tough.  If I could employ the perseverence that I demonstrate with a chocolate sundae to my writing, I’d be way better off.

So one might be tempted to think that the Novel has pushed me.  It’s hard to say.  Has it pushed me to write well?  Ummm…I think not.  While perusing the pages today, I noticed a lot of poop.  Too much detail here, not enough there.  Static characters who don’t do or say anything terribly interesting for page after page.  This is where fear and doubt come barrelling at me.  If I keep going, if I devote more of life’s moments that I can never get back to Project Poop, and it turns out to be total crap – what then?

Still forcing myself, I read on and found a couple of bright moments in the story.  In between paragraphs comprised mostly of shit, there  lay entire pages that may have merit.  This revelation gave me hope and pushed the fear away, a tiny bit.   I started tinkering, cutting, pruning, and flushing.  I sprayed the whole thing with Lysol and felt much better.

I want to keep going on this story.  It’s not going to win a Pulitzer nor is it going to change lives.  I might be lazy but I’m not stupid.  I still like the lead character.  I like how life threw her a curve ball and she just opened a bottle of whatever was handy and got on with it.  She tries to find the humour in every messed up situation.  Sure she lacks depth in places and but I can be a boring shallow creature at times too.  Her story is worth completing.  Maybe I should open a bottle of something and just get on with it.

Now, if I can only start working out again…the horizon lurks off in the distance and I’m still scared.

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Back to…Oh, Maybe Not

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Today was supposed to be different.  Today was supposed to be The Day when Routine, accompanied by its sidekick, Normalcy, returned.  The day after Labour Day was the day I’d looked forward to with an enthusiasm that I don’t usually demonstrate for much else (except perhaps sleep).

Back to School Day was to lead seamlessly into Back to Work Day – no more procrastinating, time to write and seriously.  So prepared was I for this day, I almost laid out a new outfit to wear.  No alarm clock needed; I was up, ready to flip each reluctant child off their respective mattresses like Gordon Ramsay flipping delicious creations from frying pans to plates…rapid fire, efficient.  C’mon let’s go!  Have a good day, no worries, here’s your lunch, now get OUT.

As I strode purposefully into the kitchen it became apparent a major appliance had other ideas.  Refrigerators are supposed to hum contentedly in the background while keeping food cold, crisp, and yummy.  They are not supposed to groan, flash their interior lights or make ominous clicking sounds.  They are certainly not supposed to do all these things on Back To School/Work Day.

Granted, my expectations of The Day might’ve been too high.  Same as, in addition to being Back To School/Work Day, it was the day I vowed to avoid all fattening food even though it’s my husband’s birthday.  A particularly luscious chocolate cake sits on the counter sagging from the weight of its thick layer of icing, mocking my pitiful efforts at good behaviour.

Waiting for the refrigerator repairman, I encountered a more nebulous roadblock – a friend’s blog.  Laugh-out-loud funny, interesting, and quite well written, it is better than my blog on every level.  So, in addition to major appliance breakdowns, surly children, and my own gluttony, I battle jealousy.  I don’t begrudge my friend’s talent.  Well, not totally.  I’m thrilled he’s writing.  In fact, he should retire permanently from his former profession and write…always.

It’s just that on this day, the day I was to return to the craft I love, to the thing I want more than anything to be my life’s work, I did not need to be faced with my own mediocrity.  Oh well.  Delusions of sparkling wit are fleeting…just like Canadian summers.

Over a slice of cake, I will re-read my friend’s blog.  I’ll subscribe to it.  I will be a vocal, enthusiastic fan because every good writer deserves fans.  But I will also study him shamelessly, try to channel his effortless dry humour, absorb his storytelling skill,  and strive to learn how to turn the mundane into the hilarious as he does.  (Damn him) Forget being a fan; I’m a blogger stalker…a blogker?  Blolker? Stalgger?

I will buckled down and get all serious about myself…tomorrow.

Natural Born Killer

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It’s 3:41 a.m. and I can still hear the echoes of tiny jaws crunching tiny bones.  I can still see the headless body hanging from the mouth of my sweet, innocent baby.

We recently adopted a kitten.  We were told by the humane society that she was approximately 12 weeks old and had been part of a colony of feral cats.  Waiting for us, her green eyes brimming with equal parts hope and fear, was Alyss.

Alyss might weigh 2 pounds.  Whenever I pick her up, I am shocked at how little there is of her.  For the past 5 days, she has worked her way firmly into our hearts.  We’ve been quite worried as she literally has not eaten since right after we brought her home.  As the days have gone on, she’s grown steadily more lethargic prompting me to jump thru all sorts of hoops to get her to eat.  Little did I know that she was waiting for a real meal…

Today, we were heartened to see her show more of an interest in food.  I dutifully scooped out tiny spoonfuls of baby food microwaved it to a lukewarm temperature.  I pureed a particularly foul mixture called “Seafood Buffet” so that her tiny, delicate teeth could handle it.  I fed her every 2 hours (as recommended by a vet and friends) and let her feed off the end of my finger.  I diligently monitored her water intake and the number of times she used the litter box.

I took up nightly residence on the sofa, cuddling Alyss’ tiny body next to mine.  She quickly grew to trust me and spent her nights curled in the crook of my arm, purring.  It was gratifying to earn her trust and to know that she depended on me, as she was tiny and helpless.  I was also exhausted.

Tonight, I said adios to the kids and husband and made my way upstairs.  Alyss would have to fend for herself tonight – sleep with one of the kids or in her rather expensive kitty condo we purchased for her (complete with not one but two scratching posts).  At 3:30 a.m., I had to pee so I figured I’d check on her.  I grabbed a pillow and walked downstairs only to find that she was…nowhere.

Or, rather, she was somewhere nearby but I couldn’t see her.  I could hear her playing with something.  Yay!  She was clearly getting her energy back and exhibiting the natural nocturnal tendencies of a healthy cat.  I lay down on the sofa expecting her to join me for a nice cuddle.  She did not.  She continued to play under the dining room table – I could see her in dim flashes of white.  I felt rather insulted after a few minutes.  I was no longer the center of her universe.  And then, I heard it.

Fumbling for the light switch, I was taken back to my childhood.  My mother was a cat lady.   At one point we had 22 cats (not all indoors thank God);one of the first photos of me was in a playpen buried under a blanket of cats.  All of these cats were well, cat-like.  They tolerated the humans but by and large they were  semi-wild.  They killed things all the time and crunched on their bones.  Sometimes under our dining room table…

As I stood in my dining room listening to that sound, I kept trying to tell myself that she was chewing on a ball or a piece of dried pasta that had fallen under the table.  I’m not the best housekeeper; God knows what she was chewing on – it could be a deadly plastic twist-tie for all I knew.  I started to move the dining chairs, as I did so, I noticed Alyss taking evasive action.  Had it just been a plastic twist tie, she wouldn’t have tried so hard to keep me from it.

Nope, in my gut I knew the truth:  my baby was a natural born killer.

I made a grab for her and she dropped what was in her mouth.  I saw the unmistakeable tail of a mouse right before she dropped it.  I got a plastic bag, picked up the little carcass.  and tossed it onto  the deck.  I shook my husband awake. “You need to get up.  Now.”  I dragged him out of bed and onto the back deck in his underwewar, in the rain.

“Open the bag,” I commanded in a loud whisper.  He refused.  I opened it and showed him the remains of The Headless Mouse.

“Where’s the head?”

“Somewhere between here and the sofa.”  I could feel bile rising in my throat as I said it.  He announced his intention to go back to bed.  I’ll have lawyers draw up the papers in the light of day.

We have two very heavily patterned rugs in our living/dining room.  Mouse heads, especially mangled ones, are likely to be…small.  And, well, mangled.  My first biggest fear is that one of the kids will stumble across it.  My second biggest fear is that I will.  It’s 4:10 a.m. and I really want to get the vacuum cleaner out…

After I post this, I will Google something along the lines of “Can cats eat entire mouse heads?” and see what comes up.  There will be no more sleep for me this night – I don’t dare leave her.   I look across the living room towards the kitchen.  She is on high alert in front of the oven.  Please God, no more death tonight.  I hate mice but don’t want to be stumbling over pieces of them in the morning.

I’m going back to bed.  Hopefully I’ll be safe from the sound of crunching bones up there.  Good night, Alyss.  She looks at me and blinks her green eyes.  She turns back to the oven, waiting.  Hoping.