Monday, April 18, 2011

It's True--Writers Are "Catty"

Maddox the Assassin Cat
You can’t dictate when or where your “muse” will hit. In the dim, early hours one morning as I stumbled in a NyQuil-induced haze back to my bed after tending to a sick 8 year old, I passed our kitten. In the glow from the hallway nightlight, he rolled and dodged batting one of the kids’ “lucky” rabbit’s foot key chains. As I rounded the corner, bracing myself just a little in case his sadistic sights turned toward my bare ankles, the idea for this blog entry plinked into my brain.

I wonder when that cat sleeps. I mean, he’s always doing something—day or night. Kind of like a writer, hee hee.

So, instead of counting sheep, I snuggled under the warm covers and went through the other reasons my cat reminds me of a writer. I believe I got through the first three before sleep settled once again around me. Since then I’ve added a few more. See if you can relate.

1. My cat never sleeps. Well, technically, he does sleep, but never fully, deeply, it seems. Even in those moments I catch him taking a catnap, his ears twitch with curiosity and attention. If something really interesting happens, I see his open just a slit as he gauges whether it is worth his time to investigate. Even tonight as I type this after everyone else has gone to bed, the cat is sitting in the bathroom sink looking at himself in the mirror. No rest for the weary, they say.

2. My cat looks for unusual ways to kill and maim people. We lovingly refer to our 8-month ball of blond fluff, Maddox, as The Assassin Cat for his stealthy attacks upon unsuspecting family members. Just like in some of the best heart-stopping stories, you never turn your back on him or really relax while in the shower. Mystery and suspense writers are always planning or plotting ingenious ways to do away with characters.

3. My cat is a master at creating tension. No sagging middles with this feline teenager around. Whether it is his weekly dodge out the front door just as the school bus squeals to a stop or when he races in and out of the covers as I make the bed in the morning, he keeps things interesting. And just when you relax and settle in thinking the tension is behind you, he ups the ante—like when he recently knocked the plant off the stairway (and on to my cream-colored carpet) at 3:28 in the morning.

4. My cat finds wonder in everyday things. Give him the ring off the milk jug lid and he happily plays all morning long. Leave a laundry basket in a strategic place and he hops in and out, amusing himself. A balled up sock becomes a mouse; a shoelace turns into a snake; a binder clip doubles as a slippery fish. He is not hampered by what is, he simply sees what could be in every situation. Just like writers I know whose eyes light up at the mention of sheep farmers, bomb-making, or Italian immigrants, and their imaginations runs wild.

5. My cat possesses an insatiable curiosity. He runs toward anything that scurries across the floor or past the window. He sticks his nose into every opened closet, cabinet, or drawer. We even had to dig him out from inside the wall when he found where my husband was running wire. Kind of like writers I know who read the dictionary and the encyclopedia for fun, who pick the brains of people in any profession, and who actually care enough to research the name of that doohickey on the shooter’s rifle in Chapter 4.

6. My cat spends a large chuck of his day stalking things. He stalks the dog’s tail, the slipper dangling from my foot, and the birds outside the window. All the writers I know are also stalkers. While “stalking” may be a little heavy to use, it’s still kind of what they do. They “stalk” editors and agents and published writers through websites, Facebook, and Twitter. They “stalk” that next idea. They “stalk” people farther down the publishing road at conferences and book signings. And they “stalk” that elusive book contract or major feature article.

A few times a week Maddox plays the piano by walking across the keys. He’s pretty good, too. And while I haven’t seen him type anything legible yet, I’m not putting that past him either. He is fairly amazing. Okay, your turn: What are your favorite quirks in the cats, or the writers, in your life?

Nikki Studebaker Barcus

1 comment:

  1. I knew there was a reason our cats were named Mark and Matthew