Happy New Year! May all your dreams come true in 2018 and beyond.
2018 is just beginning. It’s a fresh slate, as unmarked as the driven snow that greeted so many in the early days of the year. To be honest, my first inclination was to go with the flow and talk about resolutions. Except there’s a catch – this year, I’m not making resolutions. Instead, I’m making goals. There have been lots of blog articles about goals v resolutions that favor goals. Resolutions are doomed to failure because they are an all or nothing proposition. Goals, on the other hand, are sequential victories. We chop goals into manageable bits. That way, if you miss a goal milestone, no worries, all it means is you review and rephrase the goal. Voila – positive reinforcement and chances of success are increased.
Since discussing the baby steps of goals is yawn-inducing, I thought instead, I’d talk about the writing process and my muses. Well, one muse.
Writing is hard work. There are days when the blank page is your enemy. If the enemy of the blank page goes on too long, it’s called writer’s block. Overcoming it is like trying to lose those last five pounds (or the first five pounds, let’s be honest here). Some writers deny writer’s block, and I fall almost into that camp. After all, writing is my job. It’s not a hobby. I’m also a paralegal and I’d hate to hear what my boss would tell me if I called him and said I had legal block. Still, there are days. Days when the ideas chase themselves like squirrels through my brain but won’t gel into anything remotely resembling a story—or the story I’m telling. That’s when a personal muse is a godsend.
I call him Hutch. He even answers. Rare in a cat, but then, he’s a muse so that gives him special powers. Hutch came to me in 2004. My vet rescued him and two littermates from a Miami, Florida sewer just ahead of a tropical storm. The kittens’ eyes weren’t open, but Hutch had a meow loud enough to attract the attention of the workers whose job it was to clear debris from the drains in advance of the weather. By the time I got him he was three months old and ready for a new home. He was also notably silent. Unless he wanted something. Then he mewed sounds that mimicked words. He still does.
Hutch’s ability to chat makes him invaluable as a muse. He listens intently to my plot points, story ideas, red herrings, and even settings. When I get stuck, I run plot plans past him. Should Catherine approach the investigating officer? Would she do that? What now? The cat listens to each twist and turn. When he vocalizes, I pay attention. That’s when we play the game of three. I give him three scenarios, he mews at his favorite. It never fails. Even if I mix up the scenes, he mews at the same story. It took me a while to trust him, but over time, it’s become clear that the plots he doesn’t select are dead ends. When I don’t follow his lead, well, the muse goes silent. His disgust evident in his body language.
To thank my muse, in addition to keeping him well-fed and healthy, I’ve incorporated him in my books. Readers of the Hayden Kent series will recognize Hutch as Tiger Cat, and as Paddy Whack in the Catherine Swope series.
Readers, can you detect a difference in a fictional pet and a based in fact pet?
Writers, do you have a muse and does it show up in your books?
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