On Cats Being Like Book Ideas

This may or may not be writing related. i don't plan blog posts, just like I can barely plan a story. I'm a pantser!

I foster cats for the Philadelphia city shelter. Since I've started fostering in June 2010, I've fostered over 80 cats and kittens, and I've started "specializing" in behavior cases or major medical cases. You know. Shattered legs, eyeballs protruding from their skulls, a tendency to bite and not let go, putting people in the hospital, etc. You know. Fun stuff. 

I took this cat named Jay Jay after he came in for aggression, spent 3 months in a shelter (no easy feat: this is a high kill shelter for cats), then put his first foster home in the hospital with an infected bite wound. Oops? Jay Jay says he's sorry about that, by the way.

Jay Jay came to me pretty hyped up. I put him on kitty prozac for a month, tapered him off, and then basically let him exist in my bedroom. I didn't pet him, though I occasionally talked to him, and I didn't try to be friends with him. I let him figure things out. I had decided that Jay Jay's aggression issues were twofold: first, I believe that no one respected his boundaries as a younger cat so he learned to escalate fairly quickly and second, I think he's probably a fairly sensitive cat even as cats go. So I wanted him to understand I wasn't going to harass him or even come close to a boundary because I wasn't even going to interact with him, and I wanted him to understand that my routines at home aren't consistent, but I am always calm, and cool, and collected when I'm around my cats. 

It worked. In the almost three months Jay Jay spent with me, he did not bite me, or scratch me, or act aggressive at all. At the end of his time with me, he approached me when I called, with his tail in the air, and he sought out attention. And he learned that when he was done, all he had to do was to give me one warning and I'd leave him alone (a warning in cats: twitching tail, eye-contact avoidance, stiffened body, lip-smacking, moving away). It built up trust, and by the end, between us, there was a narrative.

I'm starting to approach book ideas that same way. I get a lot of ideas all the time and I worry they'll distract me from my current WIP. So I've begun treating them like Jay Jay. I write them down and let them sit in the room. If they approach me with a scene, I write it down, but when the narrative ends, I just put the notepad away and go back to my WIP and let the idea stew a little longer.

The more I treat ideas like cats, the more whole these ideas become and I'm less likely to lose any of my projects.

Jay Jay was hard to place in a typical home due to his history of aggression. I found a woman with a private backyard barn interested in a semi-friendly barn cat and so Jay Jay moved in yesterday.

This is me saying goodbye to him. Image


How do you handle getting ideas when you are deep into a current manuscript?