Saturday, September 27, 2008

Could Your Writing Use a Crazy Pill?

In which I reveal that in addition to being juvenile, an overbearing parent, a bad housekeeper, and plagued by invisible demons, I am also a bad pet owner. But in a way that makes me a better writer.

I was never going to blog about my kids. Oh well. Then I was never going to blog about my pets. But you know how I feel about the "I will never" vow. As usual, I promise I get to writing eventually.

My cat is depressed. I have two cats, a brother and sister from the same litter, nearly identical except that the female has always been insane a little skittish, and the male is an attention hound. Lately, though, he's been hiding, limping, generally acting sick.

So Thursday, instead of finishing my novel, I took the cat to the vet. The nurse assured me the appointment would be over in 40 minutes, in plenty of time to drop them back off and etc. I was overcaffeinated and stressed out.

Remember in Zoolander when Will Ferrell's character wonders if he's taking crazy pills?

The vet was very sweet. My cat is physically fine, she told me, but the move has upset him. She thinks his behavior is a form of acting out. Had I considered the possibility that my cat was having emotional troubles?

I had not. I have two human children, boxes to unpack, a novel to finish, a house to sell, and a husband who's been to the hospital twice this week for heart issues,* to say nothing of troubling world events, voters to register, and, yes, I realize others have much more about which to worry, but the cats are low on my stress list. Also, they are cats. She went on.

Perhaps I could take 30 minutes or so a day to focus on my cat, to show him some affection and let him know things are safe in the new house? He needs babied right now, made to feel loved. Sometimes older cats develop social anxiety disorders; there are medications, of course, that can help with stress, antidepressants and the such, and kitty counseling, play therapy...

I looked around for the candid camera.

While she went on, it occurred to me to use this in a book. Not the cat specifically, but the idea that these little stresses always seem to come when you're dealing with other things that are the "real" story. Right when you think you're starting to make headway on the actual problem, the vet wants you to spend more time with the cat, and even though it's silly, it adds to the tension. So now I want a scene where my character, right in the thick of dealing with all the stuff I've thrown at her, has a "crazy pill" moment, where the person to whom she's talking is wanting her to be worried about something that is absolutely not the real problem. I'm thinking of the way the Dursleys interrupt the real work Harry Potter is trying to do with their pettinesses and even though their issue is negligible, it adds to the mix of troubles and you want to shake them. Can you help me think of other examples? Do you have a good one in your own book?

As for the poor kitty, I'm trying. I didn't tell the vet that the cats standoffishness may also have something to do with Captain Destructo's new "KITTY RUN AWAY!" shriek, which is now followed by Tink yelling, "MOMMMMM! HE'S CHASING THE CAT!" louder than bombs. To make it up to him, I fed him twice this morning, and Tink let him sleep with her favorite stuffed friend.

* The Mighty Thor is fine, by the way, but I was freaking, of course.


Amber Lough said...

I need an equally cool nickname for my "hubby," which is so passe.

We are still moving and unpacking as well, and it's getting in the way of the things I want to do. Important things. Like nap. Yesterday I spent 4 hours straight cleaning up the old house (much of which was scrubbing toddler drawings off the walls).

I don't know how I'm going to fit in revising soon, while being mommy, wife, maid, cook, and human incubator.

J. Thorp said...

This makes me think of the flip-side of these moments -- in which a character's worries about some little thing that totally isn't the primary problem at hand lends perspective and poignancy. (Explain to me how that's pronounced "POYN-nyansee" -- then explain it to my kids, please.)

For example, the moment in the Lord of the Rings when Sam drops a box of herbs and salt and shouts to Frodo to catch it! -- nevermind they are lost in the wastes, trying to find Mordor and stalked by Gollum and who knows what else. Sam is thinking they might have an opportunity to enjoy dinner some evening and would hate to miss out for lack of proper spices.

There are simple pleasures and love in that scene -- as well as, yes, incredulity.

By the way: you conjure The Smith's "Louder Than Bombs" -- but perhaps Soundgarden's "Louder Than Love" is a better comparison to the children we love so dearly ...

No, you're right. Bombs away!

Jacqui said...

Amber, The Mighty Thor would be happy to help "hubby" come up with something suitably ridiculous and difficult to type. But sadly, I fear there will be no extra time when your human incubator days are over and the chicken is here!

Thorp, yes! I know which scene you mean. Love those too. Makes me think of Anne Frank's diary when she crushes on the boy in the contrast to the horror going on around her.

Rena Jones said...

Awwww, I hope you cat feels better soon. Moves can be hard on them.

sruble said...

Sorry you're going through so much right now!

Maybe some time with the cat will help you both with stress ;)

Good Luck!

Diane T said...

My favorite "crazy pill" moment is in Lois McMaster Bujold's "Barrayar," when the main character has just spent over a week in the wilderness, sheltering a 5-year-old Emperor from the forces of his political rival, escaping them via horseback--and all this four weeks after having a C-section during which she almost bleeds to death. She visits the doctor, complains of "fatigue," and he suggests "a post-partum exercise program." Priceless! (PS: This is the sci fi you must read to convert you! I bring it Wednesday.)

Cats are crazy little creatures, aren't they? My vet recently suggested that anti-depressants might help my one cat's litterbox problem. Perhaps so, if he could discover a way to get them down her throat.