One of my favorite pets as a child was a tortoise named SoSlow. Still with a soft shell, my father rescued her from getting hit and my sister, and I shared a new pet, that if properly taken care of, would live to 200 years old.
Over the years, I learned a lot from SoSlow. I found that even slow critters get around and always ended up at the right place at the right time.
SoSlow’s hunger was so fun to satisfy. For the most part, SoSlow had free run around the house from the time he was six weeks old. He had an appetite for lettuce. When held out to him, he’d crunch, then leave his mark in a V shape. Liking the design, I’d rotate the lettuce until I’d get a starburst shape, then on to another leaf. He also craved marshmallows, or at least we thought he did, even though he was a vegetarian. Mostly fresh greens did a good job sustaining him. Fresh greens with a high content of water.
I think we always had water available for him in a small low bowl, but he’d usually just walk over it, and it would warp the bottom of his cardboard house. As a tortoise, he never swam. He wasn’t the kind of turtle that could take a bath with you before soaping up in the tub.
SoSlow was entertainment for sure. He was an upbeat character and seldom withdrew into his shell.
Since I’m relating the similarities of my tortoise, SoSlow to the writing process, I’ll list some of them below (then some later).
- Soft shelled at first, and vulnerable to many elements of dangers, like death of an idea.
- Keep a slow and steady pace: Some of you might be like a caffeinated tortoise and move at a quicker pace while others can relate more to a consistent speed, and writing a novel might take a good year or more from start to finish.
My cousin Kathy was holding SoSlow. I’m the shorter girl on the left
SoSlow also lived in a large cardboard box that my sister and I made into a roofless house, complete with various rooms for SoSlow to walk in through a large open door. He loved to move through the maze of his boxed house. We’d hear his nails scratching on the cardboard floor unless he shuffled into a carpeted room that we glued fabric on to look like carpet or the beach rooms with sand on the floor that we’d mold into tiny hills. We spoiled SoSlow, as the most fun pet ever. He practically smiled if we’d scratch and rub the top of his head, which we’d put little hats on for special occasions, that we’d borrow from little dolls.
SoSlow gradually grew from the size of a silver dollar to the width of a grapefruit when I was 16 years old. We’d take SoSlow outside in the hot weather to play, but we never left him unintended outside. Whereas some people in the desert would drill a hole in the pet tortoise’s shell and attach them to a rope or chain, but we never did that.
In my opinion, tortoises are too free-spirited to be tied up to anything. It’s too restraining. Though, since SoSlow wasn’t a trouble maker, we’d often take him out of his cardboard house and let him have free reign. Part of the fun of letting SoSlow walk around our place was so we could search for him when we wanted to play with him. It was like a daily Easter egg hunt. Only, one sad Fall day, we searched and searched all over the house and couldn’t find him. Our search continued into the next day and the next. There was no way he could have crawled outside because of the screen door. We didn’t have any other animals that could have eaten him because of his protective shell and evidence left behind. He was nowhere to be found. Our whole family was heartbroken. Nonetheless, we kept searching daily for months and months.
Then one day, about 12 weeks after losing SoSlow, my mom was in the kitchen cooking up some goodies, and when she went over to the refrigerator to grab some eggs, she noticed a movement at the bottom of the refrigerator where the metal grate was covering warm vent of the motor. There was just enough room for SoSlow to fit. She first noticed his nose poke out from under the refrigerator; then he walked out like waking from a long nap, which is what he had been doing, napping, or hibernating all Winter long.
Refrigerator GrillWe found out later that only certain species of tortoises need to hibernate, while others do not. The following year SoSlow did the same thing and in the same place. Later he grew too much, and with his shell too high he wouldn’t fit under the vent of the refrigerator, so we made another warm and quite area in a special box that worked well for many years.
There’s another similarity of tortoises and writers.
- Some writers may need to hibernate for a certain period.
This might involve excluding yourself from some commitments and social events, for a time so you can focus on your writing. That doesn’t mean you get a three-month nap, but rather, sometimes you have to focus to finish a novel, or withdraw to meet a deadline. Of course, it’s next to impossible to crawl under a refrigerator altogether because we still need to function and meet the needs of our family. I’m not recommending complete exclusion from life. But we need to be understanding of our nature, and if there are periods of times that you and others think you’re an introvert, this is why. You have your reasons and be forgiving of those needs.
Please let me know what type of (species) writer you are. Do you need to hibernate? Does this happen at regular intervals or just occasionally? I’d love to hear your thoughts.