This morning I had an appointment at the Family Health Clinic at SF General Hospital, which is where all my health care is. It's a wonderful clinic with a gorgeous memorial garden out front of a somewhat Gothic red brick building with many molded architectural details. Just short of looking like a church, with iron fences that have wisteria crawling over them and a long winding disabled ramp that sweeps through the rose garden on the way to the front door.
I got up early because my cat woke me up an hour earlier than I needed to get up. Cats are Muses. This cat has been patiently shedding Cat Hairs of Inspiration at me for all 12 years of his life - his birthday was a few days ago. He's a big hairy long hair colorpoint with a deep purr and a fine-tuned awareness of my health problems. I'm planning on getting him qualified as a service animal because on bad days, he takes care of me. He will literally apply Fuzzy Tummy Treatment to exactly the worst of my sore joints and lay there for hours applying heat and love. That literally eases the pain.
Of course, he also sheds Cat Hairs of Inspiration. This morning that meant his whiskers went up my nose and his purring was right in my face. I opened my eyes to big round blue eyes only two inches away and a gentle purring mew. Of course I petted him. Of course, wakened that gently, I vaguely thought about my novel, the Yellow House novel started coming back to me.
I didn't think anything of it. I enjoyed the rumination, got dressed, got ready, decided to go down to wait for the van about half an hour early because I didn't want to just sit around dressed. Of course before going I fed the cat and gave him plenty of attention for his sensitive awareness of my sleep cycle. He waited until my sleep cycle had just ended rather than the alarm mechanically waking me in the middle of it when I'd be too sick and miserable to move.
Meanwhile the Yellow House novel concept percolated in my mind. Down the elevator, out the door in my power scooter, rumble over the wooden steps they put in when they put up the barricades around the street work in front of my building.
I looked at the time. I waited about a minute just watching people. The first line of the novel ran through my head. Just that clear and distinct. I heard the narrating character's voice. He was reading it aloud to me.
Gnomes don't hate cats.
For me, 500 words or so isn't a massive word count for a day. But an unexpected out of season novel opener when it's nowhere near November and the concept was spur of the moment, that's something new and joyous. I live in San Francisco now. I am in the right place doing what I do, living well enough to have the time and energy to spare for novel writing.
So there it is. I've got my opener. The most critical part of the first draft process is done - after this a chapter a day is just a pleasant routine I established for years and years. It's possible for me to both write and have a life - that's today's discovery. Tomorrow I'll keep going with it and all the following tomorrows, not worrying about how much word count I get per day but just saying hello to it daily and seeing what's next.
It's going to be fun. To my surprise the first cat who appeared wasn't a black Oriental Shorthair or Maine Coon like most of the mage cats so far, but a gray Persian named Misty. Yeah. A pansy-faced cat. She gets groomed by gnomes and appreciates their brushing as much as the food treats and affection just as Persians always do. She's a girl and a Persian, what will happen next? This might be the World's Least Spooky Cat to put into a novel. No one's going to notice she's magical, just that she sheds a lot.
I mean, would you expect a purring gray Persian that looks pampered and pretty to have some connection with the supernatural or do you think she's more associated with the Fancy Feast commercials? But she's invisible at twilight and her soft wool provides many a warm cloak and sweater to the gnomes. For all her daintiness, the people who live closest to her know she is a cat. Many humans will think she looks more like a toy - and that may be a big advantage for Misty and her friends.
Moral of the entry: Carry a notebook. It doesn't have to be paper and pen, any smartphone with a note-taking function will work fine for it. The little one-key-at-a-time virtual keyboard is good enough to get it down fast. Evernote will get it down fast in a way it can be exported, maybe next time I'll use that instead of the note pad. But have something with you no matter where you go or what you're doing.
You never know when the Muse is going to strike or the best first line will surge up from the place stories come from. When you jot those down, you hook the big concepts and your unconscious is often a better writer than you are.