I’ve mentioned Stirling the Cat (aka Lord Flopsnuggle) who recently left us. One who hasn’t left us is his brother, Sheffield.

Both are/were gray and white, the white parsimoniously applied and strictly at random. From some angles it was difficult to tell one from the other. Sterling was a bit smaller than his brother, had slightly more white fur. Sterling had a white fur patch on his face, but the only one on Sheffield’s face is a narrow bit centered on his upper lip, which makes him look just a skosh like Hitler’s reincarnation. If said reincarnation was a negative of a cat, I mean. I’ve always thought of him as Sterling’s dumber younger brother. I have no definite proof of that IQ difference, only my observation that he’s always been a little slower on the uptake than his brother.

Sheffield’s a bit of an oddball, even for a cat. More vocal than his brother, and consistent in what he “says.” For instance, over the years we’ve learned to translate two phrases, usually emitted when he comes through the cat door after a jaunt outside. One means “Come see what I found.” (usually a small animal, alive or dead) Then there’s another which is more along the lines of “Where is everybody?” The two phrases sound almost exactly the same. The difference is all in the nuance. “Come see what I found!” always sounds joyous. “Where is everybody?” has a more woebegone vibe.

Never understood that. It’s not as if we’re hard to find, but I suspect he always expects us to be right where he left us, and we keep moving.

Then there’s the mystery of the desk. My desk, specifically. When I’m downstairs, watching a bit of mindless tv or noodling on my tablet, he ignores me. Unless I’m going into the kitchen, in which case he hurries after and tries to convince me hasn’t had any kitty treats since forever.  Forever being maybe an hour. However, when I’m upstairs at my desk and trying to do something on the computer? He’s suddenly in my lap demanding all the attentions. Not when I have time to kill, only when I’m trying to work on whatever.

I think he does it on purpose. Much like a cat will ignore the shiny linoleum and barf on the Persian rug, so too  the matter of choosing its time.

I’m on to you, Sheffield.

Not that it’ll make a bit of difference.

Incapussitated, Mark II

An expansion of a post from two years ago, because the subject bears refinement.

Incapussitated (n) The inability to do the thing because there’s a cat in your lap demanding all the attentions.

This word is not in the dictionary, but it should be.  Happens frequently here, and I’d guess elsewhere as well, but then there’s always an excuse not to do the thing, whatever the thing is.  Take this thing, for prime example. I didn’t write anything on the thing for twenty minutes because there was a cat on my lap. Now, technically I could have continued writing despite the constant literal pawing for attention, but I chose to respond to the demands of my fellow living creature instead. Who, it must be known, finally had enough and jumped down to practice its incapussitation elsewhere. Incapussitated (alt. incapurritated), although it doesn’t seem that way at the time, is always a temporary condition.

Unlike blind, crippling self-doubt. Yes, unlike an inconvenient cat, that one is always around. Yes, of course it should help when you know that you’ve done the thing before and very well and can surely do it again. That is, it should help.

And yet….

Also unlike the incapussitating cat, crippling self-doubt never goes away. Hardly for a moment and never completely. In some ways it gets worse, which isn’t really fair. It shouldn’t be that way, but it is. When you’re first trying to do the thing, ignorance is your friend and ally. You don’t know you can’t do the thing, any more than you don’t know if you can. That uncertainty works in your favor as a partial antidote to crippling self-doubt because you don’t know, and so neither does crippling self-doubt, and maybe you’re both a bit curious.

So why does it get worse after you’ve actually done the thing? Pausing here to note the obvious point that “the thing” can be anything from writing a short story or novel to learning to play a musical instrument to Calculus. It does not matter what the thing is because there’s always a new thing, and crippling self-doubt right there doing its dead-level best to ruin it for you.

It’s also easier to argue with yourself that a skill was lost rather than never being gained, usually because there’s too much evidence to the contrary. Sure, you did it once—pure luck—but I bet you can’t do it again. Or, sure you’ve done it a hundred times—obviously you’re played out now, just going through the motions, repeating yourself, best quit while you’re ahead, et many a cetera. Crippling self-doubt always has a new act to go with any new thing. After all, it doesn’t have crippling self-doubt to deal with.

If there’s a cure I don’t know what it is, except to just to do the thing anyway, one battle at a time. It isn’t fair. Definitely not right. Not even healthy for one’s mental state. But that’s the way it is.

Allowing for incapussitation, of course

Good Literature Should Taste Good, Too

Chapter4Apparently First Reader is not the only resident who gets to have a say in regards to The War God’s Son. Sheffield the Cat had some incisive (incisors?) commentary on the lead to Chapter 4. You can see his commentary expressed with his usual directness. The green marks are from First Reader. There’s precedent, of course. The late great Early the Cat used to sit in my manuscript boxes, back when hardcopy was everything and I always printed out the day’s progress. I imagine to this day in some of my papers there are manuscripts with calico cat hair between the pages….

Oh right. Present day, if not present tense. As is pretty typical at this stage of the process, for my own part I have an alternating love/hate relationship with the text. Sometimes I just zip through revisions, and at others I can’t stand to look at it. Sometimes I think it’s among the best things I’ve ever done, at others, not so much.  As I said, typical. The jury’s still out with First Reader, though she is quick to point out that my punctuation is atrocious (her word, not mine). I beg to differ. My punctuation is not atrocious. It’s commas, mostly. I think commas should do what I want them to do, and I put them where I darn well want. She says commas do what they are grammatically required to do, belong only where they are required to belong. I think this is a philosophical divide that we may never manage to bridge.

As for Sheffield, he pronounces Chapter 4 “chewy.” Something he can really get his teeth into.