My cat died last week. It wasn’t an unexpected death. He was old, skinny, and had at least two dire, but unconfirmed, diagnoses. As the diagnostic procedures would have killed him I’ll never know if the lump near his jugular vein was benign or cancerous, nor will I ever get confirmation of the brain lesion that may, or may not, have caused the onset of asymmetry in his eyes. It looks like he had a heart attack and was left in grave discomfort if not outright pain. That’s how I found him. It was the end.
So, in the midst of grieving the loss of my mother, I’m now mourning Morse, too. It’s like another mountain of loss, got dumped on top of the already present mountain of sadness.
What does all of this have to do with writing?
A great deal.
Back in 2014 my dad died. In addition to encouraging me to write and taking the role of honest critic—he never hesitated to say when he didn’t like a story, didn’t approve of a character’s choices, or didn’t understand something I’d written—he was a scrupulous, if old-fashioned, proof reader. My mom, also an honest critic, was another helpful early reader of manuscripts. She read more mysteries than anyone else and could point out holes in scenarios, identify killers, and, in general, critique any puzzle with multiple red herrings with the best of them. She died a little less than a year ago.
And now the cat…
No, he was not a great editor, book doctor, avid reader, or even a useful resource for arcane, feline facts, but he was a muse of sorts, a companion, keeping me company while I wrote and read for 17 years. Will I get another cat? Yes, eventually. Do I hope that cat sits on the sofa while I read? Yes. Do I hope that future cat will traipse around my desk at odd moments and swish a tail across my bulletin board? Yes. But will that cat be a muse? I don’t know and I won’t ask that of the next whiskered buddy.
My built-in circle of test readers, proofreaders, and tail swishing writing companions is no more. I may have to join a writers’ group OR connect with other storytellers OR learn to assess the veracity of advice from outside sources…. Oh my! This sounds like another mountain of work. I already began the process when I sent a manuscript to another writer for her opinion. Will that be the standard operating procedure of my future? Likely yes. With then end of Morse, the circle has closed.