The Cats

I’ve had a bit of massive disappointment. A little while ago, I talked about the cats in my neighborhood, we live in trailers and the abandoned and outdoor cats have turned into a colony of at least a hundred cats. I love cats, and even though Joe can’t stand them and wanted to keep them away from our trailer (they tear up insulation around the pipes), I wanted to do something.

I got it into my head to do some TNR (trap, neuter/spay, release). In our area, an organization will do this for $20 a cat, meaning I would have to raise at least two thousand. I thought I could do that with my writing. I looked into it enough to find out who to call about the cats, sat down to plan a novel (only one of several things I was going to try), and have been working on research and prewriting for a couple of months now. I put off researching how to tend to a cat colony until I was ready to start related material in the book, and by the time I got to the research, things started getting upsetting.

The thing is, cats vs. birds happens to be one of those old debates that has problems coming to a solution. People are passionate about each side, and TNR is not quite the solution I was thinking it was. I assumed that feeding cats would decrease predation on birds, but that might not be true. Or it might be. Or cats preying on birds might not be the issue we make it out to be. Or it’s bigger. Or TNR is a massive waste of resources.

The reason it’s hard to tell is because most of the studies seem to be biased or suspect in some way. Even before looking at criticisms, I could still spot issues that made me wonder about their methods. They all raised good points, and they all contradicted each other. They all ignored certain issues, and some possibly purposefully used outdated material or cherry picked samples to back up their claims. Some historically significant information may even be made up entirely.

That’s what happens when you let your heart rule your science, it leads to confusion, and being too vehement against your enemy makes you look sketchy yourself. These people have talked me right into doing nothing at all.

I was even doing my “knit while contemplating stories” thing with a cat’s paw lace scarf, and the disappointment was so much that I unraveled it. I had to pick a new project to soothe me and keep my muse from sulking.

I’m making a nice fisherman’s lace scarf now, dark waters and entrapment are nice things to contemplate while thinking of horrorable Valentine’s day stories. Not sure how long it will last, but I seem to be tickled with a sanguine holiday spirit. I can still write the novel, after a bit of playtime. I’ll leave in a few of the cats.

P.S. – Joe isn’t entirely cold hearted about them. He’s promised that after he fixes our skirting, and yes, some busted pipes with torn up insulation, he’ll build a little shelter the cats can hide in. I had to promise to stop feeding them, but there are quite a few people around here feeding them so they won’t starve.

About The Idea that Brought Me To Tears

If I’m posting infrequently, it’s because I’m lost in notes and a dark nostalgia. Something uncomfortable is happening with my writing. I’m changing my approach in an intensely intimate way. Thankfully, the process isn’t too fast, as it seems to be bogged down by research. I’ve been covered in books since I realized the idea wasn’t flash, it was a novel. Well, except for December. Joe came home early in the month, so I had a good excuse.

You see, it turns out I have an agenda. I’ve got this wild notion to weave in some advice on spotting and dealing with people with low empathy, garden variety narcissists and non-violent sociopaths. My theme will be related to recovering from the damage of having one as a parent. My mother was not, but her mother was, and our relationship has been rough because of it. There are traumas my mother now carries that she’s very protective of, wounds she avoids poking, wounds healed so twisted and raw that they became contagious. She also seemed to teach me how to walk right into danger.

My agenda comes from my initial idea hitting a little too close to some personal wounds. I worked it out though, how to express my personal experiences without having to relive them. Before now, I haven’t been comfortable expressing subjects too close to home in my fiction, preferring to hide my emotions in monsters.

So, I worked out a method that would allow me to develop my idea in a more removed manner than something like freewriting about trauma or unpacking memories. I’m sure others have similar methods, I’ve just never let myself think about it before.

I’m researching and using fiction to explore concepts, building characters based on research and setting them free in story, just like I did with serial killers when I read about profiling. I’m fictionalizing the research, not my life. The difference is the research is now about subjects close to my scars.

These topics result in characters with damage that resembles my own. They aren’t a fictional me, but I empathize with them. Then I can put them through what I’ve learned about being resilient, teach them how to avoid danger and how to heal, in the way that writers are prone to do.

It’s not the emotionally nerve-wrecking idea of using personal experience as the root of creative exploration. It’s removed and theoretical, so less bothersome. It’s also a process I’m familiar with, so it feels safer even if the subjects are a little triggering.

I’m not thinking of monsters now, and yet somehow it seems darker. Tears come sometimes, even when the initial scene I envisioned has nothing but a little girl sitting on a couch, watching a family get ready for dinner. I don’t know how I’m going to explain things to Joe when he catches me weeping at my own writing. I try to cultivate a reputation that I can handle myself, despite the fact that I know he knows better.

P.S. – I highly recommend the book The Sociopath Next Door by Martha Stout, and the podcast Understanding Today’s Narcissist hosted by Christine Hammond to any writer, of any genre, and in fact, most human beings.

P.P.S. – Okay, so I will be fictionalizing what it is like to be forced to listen to Dale Carnegie on the way to elementary school, but everything else will be pure b.s., and that part might not even make it into the book. It’s so very unfortunate that I’ve decided to require myself to listen to him again, as he’s instructed a key character in being a better sleaze. I might have to drink for it, he always makes me feel so dirty.