A to Z Challenge: Cats, More Cats, and Cool Colours

During the 2013 Blogging from A to Z Challenge I’m posting what  I like to describe as “semi-useful” procrastination strategies for writers and other time-wasters. 

Today I bring you a cosy collection of distractions inspired by the magical letter C. I’m not going to lie. Only one of these links could reasonably be described as even remotely useful. The rest are unabashedly silly, because everybody needs a little silly sometimes.

  • You know how you have those moments when you start getting anxious about how to extricate your protagonist from her latest predicament? Or you’re feeling down in the dumps because  no one seems to agree on whether it’s acceptable to end a sentence with a preposition? Or perhaps or you’re simply fed up with trying to vacuum the dust bunnies out from under the bed? You can’t ignore the task at hand for long, but you need a break, a mini-reprieve. Enter Cat Bounce! Because, I ask you, who does not like to see cats bounce? That’s what I thought. After you’ve had your fill of bouncing, don’t forget to click on “make it rain.” You’ll be glad you did.
  • But maybe a few minutes of bouncing cats isn’t enough of a distraction. Maybe, just maybe, you’re looking to kill half an hour or half a day getting your kitty fix. There are two billion and seven (yes, I counted) sites on the internet where you can find videos of cats engaging in adorable, outrageous, and sly behaviours, but The Top 20 Cat Videos of 2012 provides a handy starting point. If you want to see a cat eating with a fork, spinning vinyl or getting fit on a treadmill, you won’t be disappointed.
  • Not enough cats for you? Well, how about this: imagine cats were fonts. What would Helvitica cat look like? Or Apple Chauncery Cat? Come on, don’t tell me you’ve never wondered. The good news is, someone else has figured it out: and provided visuals.
  • What’s that? You’re not a cat person? Don’t worry, I’ve saved a very special link for you, and in addition to being a handy distraction, this one is actually informative and useful. The Merriam Webster website has a series of top ten lists, and my dear friend Jo (@jtvancouver on Twitter) just pointed this one out to me: Top 10 Words for Unusual Colors Worth Looking At. (And, yes, I agree, that title is desperate for a good editing. What were they thinking??) You’ll find some fascinating snippets of history, art history, and science, as well as some very cool colour names.

So, how about you? Where do you go when you’re in the mood for a little cattish distraction? Or colour distraction, if you’re so inclined?

A to Z Challenge: Befunky & Best of Craigslist

During the 2013 Blogging from A to Z Challenge I’ll be posting what  I like to describe as “semi-useful” procrastination strategies for writers and other time-wasters. Not that I’m saying that all writers are time-wasters, of course, but let’s face it, fellow writers, when we’re slogging through the second half of that obstinate novel or revising the startlingly abysmal first draft, sometimes we do hunger for a few moments (or hours) of distraction, and sometimes those distractions even turn out to be (semi-) useful. 

Two links today, The first really is just an amusing option for whiling away time that could no doubt be better spent writing a short story about The Cocker Spaniel Who Ate the Tundra. The second, although equally amusing, might actually provide inspiration for a story.

  • Befunky: This free online photo editor is a total time suck, but so much fun. Just upload any photo or image, and then edit it to the point of no recognition. You can sharpen, blur, recolour, crop, create shadow, add text, throw in special effects, whatever your little heart desires. For example, this is how I prettied up my Twitter user pic, wasting only a scant ten minutes (and, yes, I’m well aware that the original is superior in every way, but that’s hardly the point):









  • Second up, if you’ve come to a block in the writing road, you cannot go wrong with bestofcraigslist. Updated regularly, this is a list of the funniest, weirdest, most tasteless postings on the craigslist site. You have to be careful about the links you click on if you’re easily offended, but it’s definitely worth a visit, and it’s pretty much impossible not to find the fuel for at least one story or dinner party anecdote while you’re there. Case in point, a post from March 5 this year: ,

Wanted: Mule named Sal

Looking for a mule named Sal to travel to Buffalo on the Erie Canal.

Must be a good ol’ worker and and a great ol’ pal.

Name is non-negotiable.

There are some terrific bloggers participating in the challenge this year. Check them out over here.

A-to-Z Challenge: Animal sounds

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I’ve hemmed and hawed about participating in the 2013 Blogging from A to Z Challenge for months now. On the plus side, it was tons of fun last year until I fell and banged my head on the sidewalk, at which point it became considerably less fun and a whole lot more work, and eventually a group of online friends came to to my rescue. As I say, though, I had a great time until then and met all kinds of lovely people. On the down side, I’ve been slacking on the fiction writing and had decided that if I’m going to devote writing energy to anything, it really should be in that direction.

As it happens, I rarely listen to myself when I’m being practical. A few days ago I signed up for Camp NaNoWriMo, committing to write myself 30,000 words closer to the end of my novel-in-progress. That should, in fact, take me to the end of the first draft, or, as it’s affectionately known, the vomit draft. And that would have been that, except for the fact that this afternoon when I was lolling about feeling sick and feverish and procrastinating getting started on my first thousand words,  it occurred to me that the A-to-Z wouldn’t be nearly as much work if I could only come up with a theme that lends itself to short, pithy posts.

This led to a marathon session of web surfing (to get the creative juices flowing, don’t you know) and then, wham! Out of the blue! My theme! What could be more apropos than an A to Z of semi-useful procrastination strategies for writers and other time-wasters?

First up, it’s A for Animal Sounds, for which I offer the following links of unadulterated awesomeness:

  • Have you ever wondered what a grey tree frog sounds like? Have you wondered whether there’s any difference between the way a grey tree frog in West Virginia sounds as compared to, say, a grey tree frog in New Brunswick? Well, the Macaulay Library at Cornell University has an enormous, searchable online database of animal sounds that will answer those very questions for you. The have 19 different audio recording of grey tree frogs, to be precise. And not just tree frogs. Oh, no. The library has “175,000 audio recordings covering 75 percent of the world’s bird species, with an ever increasing numbers of insect, fish, frog, and mammal recordings as well.” It’s ear-poppingly fabulous!
  • But, you say, actually I’d find it more helpful for the particular story I’m writing if I knew how a Turk might pronounce the sound of a crow cawing. Do not despair, procrastinator. I have that link too! If you need to know how certain common animal sounds are pronounced in seventeen languages, look no further than the Derek Abbott’s Animal Noise Page on the University of Adelaide website. (According to Derek, the Turkish pronunciation of crow caws would be gaak, gaak.)

What did I tell you? Awesome, right? If you write anything–poetry, short stories, novels, travelogues, a blog, letters to your Aunt Gert–there’s no way these sites can’t be considered research. This is what I mean by “semi-useful” procrastination strategies–strategies that, in a pinch, can be justified as a productive use of time. Kind of. Sort of. If you squint and don’t mind being thought of as delusional.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more delightful time-wasters research options for your delectation.

The fine art of procrastination

It’s amazing the lengths a person will go to in order to avoid plunking her butt down in the chair and getting down to writing, isn’t it? It’s only May 5, and already this year I’ve:

  • Taken up knitting again, even though I suck mightily at it and have to unknit almost everything I start at least fourteen times
  • Started watching an excess of TV again–even the shows that bore me rigid–with the automatic, zombified devotion of a born couch potato
  • Bought and partially read at least seven books on writing
  • Subscribed to six podcasts on writing, not to mention another half dozen on topics ranging from philosophy to news quizzes to the indie Canadian music scene
  • Enrolled–albeit briefly–in an Italian course
  • Created an even greater degree of chaos and clutter in my writing space than the already mind-boggling degree of chaos and clutter with which I began the year; there is now, in fact, no available surface on which to plunk my butt should I be so inclined and a scant few inches upon which to rest my laptop

There’s nothing wrong with knitting, of course, or with watching TV in moderation, or with taking the time to find out how others deconstruct and elucidate the writing process, or with striving to improve one’s mind with the odd helping of Spinoza or Mark Kermode’s film reviews. And let’s face it,  Italian is a beautiful, roll-off-the-tongue-like-butterscotch language — who wouldn’t want to spend a few hours each week learning it?


Knitting, staring at the tube, reading about writing, overdosing on podcasts,and learning how to conjugate Italian verbs leave very little time, as it turns out, for excavating my writing space from the chaos into which it has descended. It’s time to reassess priorities: a little more discipline, a lot less self-indulgence, no more excuses. Excuses, oh, yes. I have a bazillion of those–but that’s for another post.