Quiet: I'm Trying to Write!

Yesterday around dawn, my husband and I woke to the sound of some insanely-loud crows. Turns out we had a murder of 'em (one never gets enough chances to use the collective noun for a grouping of crows) in and around the giant pine tree just behind our house.

While we're incredibly thankful to the tree for dutifully remaining upright instead of crushing us in our sleep during the recent hurricane, the crows congregating in its crown refused to shut up. All day long, they went on, cawing so furiously as I attempted to write that they began to remind me of a murder of (if the collective noun fits...) critics having a huge snarkfest -- or at the very least, those forces of resistance that absolutely hate to see a novel written.

I went out back a few times and stared up into the tree in an attempt to see if they were nesting up there, which might call for the purchase of sound-proof windows. I didn't see a nest, and the crows paid me no heed. They ignored the dogs, too, rather than swooping down and dive-bombing as they sometimes will when they perceive their young are threatened by a predator.

It wasn't until late in the day that my husband spotted the cause of all the commotion. Looking over from the angle of our neighbor's deck, he saw a huge owl roosting near the uppermost branches. A great horned owl, it turned out. After checking it out thoroughly with a pair of field glasses, we turned to Google to find out about the crows' behavior.

According to various bird sites, great horned owls kill roosting crows and young crows at night, so during the day, if a crow spots one near its territory, it raises a noisy alarm. So noisy that crows gather from miles around to mob and jeer and occasionally (emboldened by their numbers) dive and peck at the sleepy owl. According to the experts, crows -- which are about the smartest birds I know of -- do this to drive off the predator and protect their families.

Call me paranoid, but I have another theory. I suspect that poor owl up there is only trying to write a novel, and the voices of resistance know this must be stopped.

So which incarnations of resistance do you find most annoying as you try to write? Telemarketers? Naysaying relatives? Voices from past critics/rejections? Or the interruptions of your own kiddos, clamoring for attention?


Suzan Harden said…
Oooh, this reminds me of a Neil Gaiman story called 'Parliament of Rooks' (I think). The two MCs observe a ritual in various coridae families. The birds will gather in a field circling one of their members. The birds will call back and forth until either they all fly away together, or the other birds peck the one in the center to death. One MC comments that it reminds him of a trial. The other MC says the central bird is a storyteller and if the story sucks, he dies.

Maybe the crows are a really a group of fans not too happy about the owl of the cover of 'Triple Exposure,' and they want equal time in the next book. Look at them as noisy muses.
I love that explanation from the Gaiman story, Suzan. Will have to track that down to read.

I thought about the owl cover of TE, too. So maybe it was personal on the part of the crows. Or maybe not, since I heard them raising a ruckus across the street earlier this morning. I'd better warn my neighbor to keep a close eye on her Yorkie when she lets him out before bedtime!

In yet another aside, I'm reminded of my grandfather, whose pride and joy was a large vegetable garden he used to feed his extended family. When crows wreaked having, he did what old-timers used to do and shot one and hung its body on the fence as an example to its fellows. (Don't try this with critics!) Ever after, those crows knew him from every other human, and whenever he stepped outside without his gun (told you they're smart birds), they'd jeer and dive at him and try to knock his hat off.

As a grandkid, it was hellaciously amusing to watch (since the birds ignored me) and listen to my granddad curse his own personal version of Hitchcock's masterpiece.

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