It would appear that a major part of the writing process for me is spending several months telling people that I am going to write something, but not actually writing said thing.
Before I wrote The Way Forward (formerly known as Drinking Stories but still unpublished by any name), I spent about five months claiming that I was going to write it. In the case of my second book, that shit-talking interval has been reduced to four months and I am now in the process of very slowly crafting yet another story that no one will read.
I acknowledge the futility of such an act, but I still post myself in front of the computer every day, because that's my mental picture of what a writer should do. Much of the way I approach writing is wrapped in what I think I should do. That's a clear sign of a poseur, I know, but since that is indeed what I am I don't really know any other way to be. It's one of those logic puzzles: how does a poseur pretend to not be a poseur without looking like a poseur posing as a non-poseur?
So, I sit there in front of my laptop trying to look like a writer. If you were to set up a web camera in my study, perhaps I would indeed look like one. At almost any time of day you would see me sitting at the computer and you might think, "Gosh, there's a fellow who's dedicated to his craft," but on closer inspection you would see that I am more often than not checking Facebook.
"Do I have any new friends yet? No. How about now? Nope. OK, how about now?"
Yes, you can get e-mail alerts for such things, but what if there's a glitch? It's better to keep checking. Because, you know, the number of people I have listed on my Facebook is a direct indicator of my character. Your number of Facebook friends is directly related to how much Jesus loves you. Presently Jesus loves Al Franken a whole lot more than me, which is kind of unfair since Franken is Jewish. But Jews stick together, I guess.
Yesterday, though, I was actually writing my actual book and feeling quite pleased with myself, when I heard a little "tink-tink" noise just behind me. I turned around and saw a small orange and black cat just sitting there on the floor, staring at me.
"Hello, cat," I said. "What are you doing here?"
In typical cat fashion, it refused to answer. But I was able to guess that it had come in from the back garden. In these summer days I like to keep the door open to let the air in.
"I don't think Rachel would want you in the house," I told the cat, pointing to the stairs.
The cat acknowledged this and headed downstairs with me, where -- in true 1940s housewife style -- I put some cream in a bowl and set it outside in the garden. I'm sure proper cat owners will tell me that cats do not actually like cream, or that it is, in fact, bad for them. But this cat humoured me by licking it up and allowing me to pet it for a while.
"You're one of those damn cat diplomats," I realised.
Delegates from the cat community will occasionally try to persuade me to change my anti-cat stance. This tabby was very clearly trying to strike right to my core by showing up in my study.
Over the years, I have noticed that almost every author I like, and several that I at least respect, are cat people. Ernest Hemingway, Kurt Vonnegut, Jack Kerouac, James Joyce, Dylan Thomas, Kate Roberts -- all of them had cats and their appreciation of the fiendish creatures was often worked into their art. In Islands in the Stream, Hemingway spends a good five pages yammering on about his cat.
Since I am more a person who wishes to be seen as a writer than an actual writer, I have long worried that I would need to adopt a cat to fit the caricature of who I am trying to be. I have also long lamented that I am doing very little, if anything, toward developing lung cancer or cirrhosis of the liver.
Indeed, if that cat shows up again with a pack of Camels and a bottle of Bombay Sapphire, I will see right through its feline trickery.
But that's the thing, see. I haven't seen that cat since. After no more than two minutes of hanging out with me, the cat scampered off. That's the thing about cats -- they leave you. Which is at the heart of why I don't like them.
The purpose of having a pet, in my mind, is to have something around that will make you feel less lonely but doesn't have the ability to commandeer the TV remote. The purpose of a pet is right there in the name; it should sit there and be warm and pay attention to me and allow me to pet it. To that extent, I have never understood the point of keeping fish or birds. Pets should be mammals -- dogs, cats, bison, etc.
But a cat is a heart-breaker. It shows up and gives you a token amount of attention and then disappears to rub its fur all over your black shirts and make your house smell of its wee. Cats are bastards, dealing a kind of emotional crack to the weakest souls.
Here I am, wannabe writer, feeling a bit lonely in this faraway country where I still haven't mastered the language, and this cat shows up and makes me feel better. And then it pisses off, never to be seen again, making me feel even worse. Fucker. Little four-legged heart-wrenching demon.
Man, I hate cats.
*How many people get that headline?