My husband (bless him) buried one of my stray cats this morning. A neighbor called last night and said she saw one on the side of the road. We scooped him into a trash bag and dug his grave this morning. He wasn’t really mine. I tried to woo him with tuna and milk, but he’d eat, and then leave. Mostly wild, but wonderful. There used to be nine of them. Now I’m down to five.
I’d like to think Midnight found a home. He was the most affectionate, loved to zip into the house when the door was open and wanted petted under his chin. Our chihuahua annoyed him. Maybe he found a home with no dog. The kitten with the cutest face left next. He, too, loved kitchens, so maybe someone served him salmon instead of canned tuna and lured him to be theirs. Glados, their mother, would glare at me as she begged for food. I had to admire her prickly independence, but I can’t believe anyone could make her a pet.
It’s odd, but the strays made me think of fellow writers I know. And maybe myself. The strays come to me when I call, will wind around my ankles, but bolt if I try to touch them. They value their independence more than they value a warm room and soft cushion. Not many writers can claim that they’re putting words on paper to be rich. They might start out thinking that, but that fantasy evaporates pretty quickly. But we still write. When we lose money, we write. Just like the cats, we’re skittish about success. We want it, but we want to do things our own way.
Experts give advice on how to use a formula to sell books. Most writers aren’t interested. We read books on how to plot, how to pace, even how to market. We cozy up to the experts, but insist on doing it our way. We purr about following the rules, but break the ones we decide not to follow. For good reason. Each writer needs to be fresh, to bring something unique to the market, and to have an individual voice. We don’t want to play it too safe.
Just like everything else in writing, balance is the key. There are rules that define the basics of good writing, but there are exceptions that make each story our own. And who knows? Maybe some day, my novels or novellas will find a big audience, and I can stretch out on a velvet sofa, secure in my sells numbers. But in the meantime, I have to beg for scraps of attention, twittering “read me, read me,” and sauntering through the perils of no publisher, no home. A stray.