Sound is a beautiful thing. Trees rustling. Brooks babbling. Rain on a metal roof.

Sound is wonderful.

But noise?

Noise and I have had an… interesting relationship, especially over the last few months. To cope (aka preserve my scarce sanity), I’ve found a filing system helpful.

Category #1: Irritating noises: Thuds from another room, slurping, crunching, tapping, scratching, clacking (unless that clacking comes from the keyboards of fellow writers, then it’s encouraging).

Category #2: Que up the fight/flight/freeze noises: Thuds from another room, random idiot shooting off illegal fireworks, revving of car engines at three a.m. (Really? Overcompensate much?)

Category #3: “This is gonna cost me something” noises: Thuds from another room (my three cats proudly file this sound in multiple categories), a rattle in the engine, high-pitched squeaks from heretofore silent appliances.

It’s early morning, and I’m sitting at my desk. Comfy shorts. Hoodie. Berry-banana smoothie in hand. I truly believed I had a shot at slinging four to five hundred words onto the manuscript before I leave for the day. I passed two napping cats on the way to the office. The third is… somewhere, but quiet. Even Little Miss Muse was cooperative. She’d been playing all night long with an idea, and she was eager for words before they POOF!-ed away.

(Fellow creatives and their respective muses know the POOF! well. It floats between all three categories at will, caring not about the havoc it wreaks on human nervous systems. POOF! is the sound of the most amazing idea ever vaporizing into thin air… Consequently, one can also experience the POOF! as dollars vanish from the bank account after diagnosing an engine rattle.)

I open up the blank page and…


I take a full three seconds to file this noise in the appropriate category, quickly deciding to bypass Category #2 because recovering from a PTSD response this early in the morning will mean I have no wherewithal to tackle all the other noises the day has in store.*

Problem-solving mode ensues:

  1. Throw a glance over my shoulder expecting to see Feline #3 messing with her toy spring. Perhaps she got it stuck against the wall in the corner. No cat. No spring.
  2. SCRITCH is filed in Category #1.
  3. Turn back to the screen to—SCRITCH.
  4. Deep breath. Turn completely in my chair, tilt my head just so, and wait… wait… wait for the sound to occur a third time. It doesn’t.
  5. Face the blank page and blinking cursor and—SCRITCH.
  6. Shove away from the desk, chair rolls back too fast, and I nearly miss catching it before it crashes into Zeppo’s shelf. He’s unbothered by the chair or the noise because he’s covered in Biscoff butter.
  7. Stand in the corner, ear tilted. SCRITCH.
  8. Pull out the bookcase. Wonder why I’m even doing this because we have three cats. Nothing should be scritching about in this house anywhere.
  9. It’s above me. Like attic level.
  10. Make a mental note to reduce Tuna Feast in Gravy portions. Maybe if the cats get hungry they’ll—louder SCRITCH and a THUD. If there’s a Gatekeeper of Category #2, he’s asked Category #1 Gatekeeper to hold his beer.
  11. Another THUD prompts a just-in-case kitty head count because over the last few days, Feline #3 has escaped twice (once through a wind-blew-it-open door, and once through a window screen because she’s become a girthy girl and her girthiness wouldn’t fit in the sill. She took Feline #1 on this journey out the window).
  12. Felines #1 and #2 snore in my bed—totally worthless. Feline #3 is perched on a plush, royal blue cat tree in the Hub’s man cave, two rooms away from the SCRITCH/THUD/SCRITCH/SCRITCH/THUD. “Do you not hear that?” Feline #3 does not, or does and does not care. Perches must be perched upon and she can’t be diverted from her duties.
  13. Return to the office.
  14. Stare at the ceiling, wishing for X-ray vision. SCRITCH. THUD. THUD/SCRITCH.
  15. Tell myself I have supersonic hearing, and it’s actually a rogue critter on the roof instead of in the attic.
  16. Take myself outside and do a perimeter sweep far enough away from the house to see the whole roof. Gatekeepers #1 and #2 pull out lawn chairs and enjoy the show.
  17. No critter on the roof. No obvious portals into the attic. Little Miss Muse warns of an impending POOF! if we don’t get back to work.
  18. Return to the office, give Trudi a pat on the head, and adjust her cape.
  19. Find a now-awake Feline #2 balancing over my keyboard and taste-testing my smoothie. He declares it suitable for consumption.
  20. I declare the smoothie unsuitable for further consumption as Feline #2 licks deep purple goodness from his whiskers. Ah, well.
  21. Resituate the chair and jiggle the mouse to wake up the laptop.
  22. SCRITCH/SCRITCH/THUD/DRAG. Place forehead on desk.
  23. Little Miss Muse declares a POOF! is coming. Just seconds away. To focus already…
  24. Grab noise-cancelling headphones. Dolly Parton’s 9 to 5 because we need to get to work and because Bob Segar & The Silver Bullet Band get Zeppo too riled up (he’s paired his little headphones with mine), and there’s already enough noise. Cranking the radio also solves engine rattles, FYI…
  25. Twenty-seven words onto the not-quite-so-blank page, Dolly hasn’t even stumbled all the way to the kitchen for her ambition when now-awake Feline #1 slides across the desk and lands on my bare legs with her razor toes out, breaking the skin.
  26. Take the headphones off. Retrieve the peroxide. It’s an occupational hazard one becomes accustomed to when the office mates have claws.
  27. Clean up the blood. SCRITCH/THUD/THUD/DRAG. Irritation notches up. Way up.
  28. Remind myself to conserve wherewithal. It’s in limited supply.
  29. Return to the screen, thighs still burning.
  30. Replace the headphones. Dolly has given up. Quit her job.
  31. Cue rain-on-metal-roof white noise. Something nice. Soothing.
  32. Reread my twenty-seven words for the day.
  33. Situate my fingers over the keys. Little Miss Muse slumps on my shoulder, and… yeah.
  34. Tell Little Miss she was right and offer a round of grape bubblegum and a new tutu for her trouble. It had been a nice idea—while it lasted.
  35. File SCRITCH/THUMP/DRAG in Category #3, disappointing Gatekeepers #1 and #2.
  36. Gatekeeper #3 lights a cigarette and whispers, “POOF!”


*I kid you not. The library performed a thirty-seconds-long fire alarm on this day, and what started off as “Oh, that’s annoying, but it’s not what I thought it would be” escalated to the point where I believed fire departments from ten counties over would barrel upon us to hose down books. And our laptops. And us. Water and smoke everywhere.

This event landed me at the fringe of a Category #2 response and Writer Buddy had to stop her WIP and provide words of encouragement to drown out that drunken Category #2 Gatekeeper.

It was only thirty seconds.

My ideas for the day further went POOF! and I end up with this blog post instead of the hoped-for WIP words.


And, thus, the importance of wherewithal conservation.

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