A WRITER’S JOURNEY: Part 14
The Value of Animals
This topic has come up before in A Writer’s Journey – not directly – and I said I would tackle it in a future edition. As writers we value our friends. They are kind enough to read over our work, pointing out a misspelled word or a faulty fact. They are there to take us out for drinks when we’ve been locked in our offices spending too much time playing with fictional people. Our friends keep us grounded in reality. In most cases these friends have their own homes, their own lives and jobs, which means they can’t be there for us 24/7 to remind us life is more than what happens between the pages of a book. That could very well be the reason many writers have pets.
I have a couple handfuls of pets. I consider them all my friends. Having pets during my life helped inspire my story, “Backyard Holes”, which you can find here. It was a commentary on those people who collect pets as a possession and the parents who enable their children to neglect animals without respect for their fragile lives. I’ve known people who treat their animals this way (none of them were writers, I might add).
Cats are listed in the bios of many writers. Ray Garton has a small pride of felines running around his house. I think if you looked through your stacks of books you’d probably find half of the back pages where the hundred word blurb about your favourite sits include a mention of a pet, and often considered a member of their family. Why are pets so damn popular among writers?
I watched a brief video tonight sent to me by my local aquarium store. It’s from a segment on The Discovery Channel showcasing a new aquarium exhibit at the Royal Ontario Museum. Here’s the link watch it yourself: http://watch.discoverychannel.ca/clip316896#clip316896 . Watching it will help you to understand what prompted me to write this edition of A Writer’s Journey tonight.
In my 38 gallon tank I have many friends. I call them my meditation buddies. 1 Rope Fish (he’s eel-like and reminds me of a watersnake), 2 Silver Mollies, 1 Rainbow Killi, 1 Golden Algae Eater (roughly 8″ long, he’s the Goliath of the tank), 6 Serpae Tetra, 1 Glass Cat, 1 Black Platy, 1 Long-fin Albino Cory Cat (he’s died over 20 times and has earned the nickname “Frankenfish”), 1 Spotted Cory Cat, 2 Pearlescent Angels, 1 Black Lace Angel, and 1 African Dwarf Frog. I list them all here because I want you to see the variety, which is important to me. I think non-creative people have a tendency to fill their aquariums with large amounts of the same fish. If you googled my meditation buddies, you would also see that many of them are strange fish and that’s important to me as well. I never become bored with them after the thousands of times I’ve sat in front of the tank watching them in an attempt to clear my mind. They have unique personalities that have been known to inspire my characters. The Serpae Tetra don’t have individual names, I’ve simply called them, “The Kids”. The Rope Fish is called, “Noose”. I can’t take them out and interact with them. I can only watch them interact with each other; like my characters. I have zero control over them short of letting them live or killing them. It’s therapeutic while I watch them because it reminds me that while I write I have very little control over the book’s path. I can’t make things happen. I can watch and record what happens. Get yourself some fish and tell me that on a bad night you don’t become mesmerized by their antics. It’s better than tv – better than most tv these days at least.
In our house we also have a Lop-eared Dwarf Rabbit. He’s fluffy and cute. Ripley also has buckets of attitude when he feels he isn’t getting the attention he deserves. He thumps his hind legs when he’s pissed and rings his bell if he wants you to let him out to investigate. I have a harness for him and take him out for walks in the front yard. His curiosity reminds me that even in the gentlest creature is a thirst for adventure and a fighting spirit.
We have two geckos, a Petri Gecko (desert gecko) and a Golden Gecko (rainforest gecko), and they both have different personalities. The Petri acts like both a playful squirrel and a tiny Pit Bull. The Petri also squeaks when he’s irritated. The Golden is skittish until you pet him and calm him down. At night the Golden rests on the back wall of his aquarium and stares at me. The Golden kind of reminds me of Norman Bates at times. I took him out one time and he freaked out, separated his tail which waggled mindlessly in my hand while he ran away. Scared the shit out of me. I was traumatized.
The last of our pets is a Boston Terrier with a cat complex. I believe in addition to unique personalities animals can also develop mental disorders. My dog has the OCD of a cat, constantly cleaning himself. I’m not talking about long, slow licks of his testicles like a normal dog; he cleans his paws all of the time and curls up against you like a cat would. His smile is infectious though. He has a goofy bug-eyed grin that softens your heart.
I’m around these animals every day. It’s like living with the cast of a book or a house full of friends. They are invaluable to my writing. Whether it’s because I have to take a break to feed or take care of their needs or watching them behave gives me the answer to a plot problem, they are always there to help me. Would I have made it through the stress of writing a book without my animal friends there to make me laugh? Probably, but with a few more mental scars than I did with them by my side. 24/7 they’re there to remind me to write an extra thousand words.
Ask any writer with a pet and they’ll tell you writing would be a lot harder without their friends. If you don’t already have a pet, I suggest you get one. There’s an animal out there that suits you. Your writing will benefit from it, even if it’s only because you are a little less stressed out when you sit in front of the keyboard to pound out the next best seller.
If you have a pet and find it helps you to write in some way, I’d love to hear about it. Leave a comment below.