Writer's Block and Petpet Talk
Obriareus perched at the breakfast table, skimming through a slightly rumpled copy of last week's Neopian Times. As he flipped the pages, an advertisement at the top of the comics section caught his eye: "Calling all writers! Submit stories and articles NOW for the Neopian Times!" the large black type read, and then "SPECIAL EDITION!" in a pretty blue script. A White Weewoo clutching a newspaper looked out cheerfully from beneath the advertisement letters. When he saw the happy Weewoo, Obriareus's Pteri heart surged and flew, beating quickly in excitement for just a second. All of a sudden, though, it dragged again as his discouragement began to creep back in. "Oh, Cottus..." Obriareus sighed, looking over towards his Vacana, "The only thing I want is to be a real Neopian Times writer."
Cottus twitched his tail.
"Oh, never mind. I mean, you're just a petpet, you can't really help me. Petpets can't even talk!" Obriareus mused aloud as he got up from the table, stretched his yellow and red wings long, then ruffled his feathers back into place.
Cottus thumped his hoof, stood up, and trotted over to the table.
"Aww! Sorry, Cottus, didn't mean to get you up," he said. "I mean, how could you help me, anyway?"
Obriareus had dreamed of becoming a writer for the Neopian Times, but he suffered from terrible writer's block. When he told stories around the dinner table, all of his family members laughed and smiled. He could tell that they genuinely liked his stories, or at least that they liked most of the stories most of the time. When he tried to take his ideas one step further though, he began to get nervous. Once he began writing the words out on paper to edit and polish, he froze up inside. He began to craft sentences, carefully printing them into his trusty yellow lined notebook, but then started to doubt whether the words were really good enough to be accepted into the Neopian Times. Invariably, Obriareus decided against submitting them, and as a result, almost all of his story and article ideas ended up silent, trapped in crumpled pieces of yellow paper and taken out to the Meridell rubbish dump each week.
But he was determined to change all that. No matter how many pieces of paper and story ideas he discarded, Obriareus knew that if he wanted to be a writer, he had to keep trying to write.
The first step, he thought (for what seemed like the millionth time), was to have lots of ideas. He decided to ask his family for help.
"How do I get ideas for articles and stories?" he asked.
"Just go out and look at what's happening in Neopia," his sister Chromae advised. "And be creative!"
After reading through the past week's Neopian Times, he collected his favorite pen, notebook, and backpack, and went for a long flight around Neopia, pondering how to be creative. Each time he saw something happen, he turned over the event in his mind, thinking of how to transform it into beautiful words. Near the beginning of his idea-gathering journey, he overheard a Cybunny and a Krawk arguing loudly about whether Turdle Racing or Yooyuball was a better sport. "Wow, some Neopets care so much about Turdles," Obriareus thought to himself. "Who knew?"
He decided to fly to Meridell and check in on the races. Once he arrived, he flew right over the racetrack, taking in a Pteri-eyed view of the festivities and contemplating the best ways in which to describe the Turdles and the small-but-enthusiastic crowd. After the day's events were over, he stopped to conduct a few short interviews with Turdle racing fans who wanted to talk about whether Turdle Racing would survive the departure of so many pets who were now more interested in Yooyuball practice.
That evening, Obriareus reviewed his notes, thought hard, and, for inspiration, reviewed previous Turdle Racing articles in the Neopian Times archives. He wrote a few sentences, stopped, thought more, and crossed out all of the words he'd written. He started again, waiting for an idea, but was too discouraged. So many of his potential article ideas had been covered in past editions! He tried to keep writing, but couldn't stop thinking that his ideas just weren't good enough. Slowly, he became discouraged and the words dried up. Writer's block, again! "Maybe," Obriareus said quietly to Cottus, who was once again sleeping near his chair, "I'm doing this wrong. Somehow."
"Chromae?" Obriareus chirped loudly towards her bedroom. "You told me to be creative. What does that mean?"
"What?" Chromae shouted back. "Obri, I'm busy."
"What about racing Turdles, Mae?" Obriareus asked.
"Turdles?" Chromae sounded confused. "It's just making up interesting stories!"
"Creativity is making things up," the Pteri thought. "That's a good idea."
The next day, he awoke refreshed and ready to find a new writing plan with a different writing tactic. Taking his Turdle Racing article notes from the day before, Obriareus sat down with his favorite light faerie pen to write a Racing-Turdle-eye-account of what he had seen in Meridell. He chose one Turdle, Nutty, and began to imagine a day in Nutty's life at the racetrack. Soon, though, his eyes wandered to the posters on his wall and the old Times that rested on the side of his desk. Once again, he slipped into the thoughts that he had thought so many times before: All of his stories seemed tired, just like himself, Cottus, and Nutty the Turdle. Just as he was about to slip into the writer's block despair once again, Obriareus had an idea.
"Could YOU help me think of a creative story, Cottus?" Obriareus asked the Vacana.
Cottus turned around in a circle.
"Oh! Circles? Racing Turdles do race in circles."
Cottus stamped a hoof.
Obriareus thought he might be imagining things, but Cottus sounded annoyed.
"Yeah... Guess not. Should I guess again? Okay. Circles. I should write about... doughnuts? Doughnuts are circles! I could plan a whole feature – a whole series! – about Baked Goods of Neopia, that's perfect! And yum, I'd have to go fly over to the bakery for samples. Cottus, you're brilliant; that's so much better than Turdles."
Cottus stamped the same hoof again, this time more loudly.
Just a second later, Chromae opened the door suddenly. She had heard the stomping and wanted to know what was happening. "Hi Mae," he said sheepishly. "Sorry Cottus is so loud. I was trying to think of a story for the Neopian Times, but now I'm confused. He's trying to tell me something. I think?"
While Obriareus and Chromae were talking, Cottus acted quickly. A page of the Neopian Times was dangling off of the edge of the desk where Obriareus had left it half-opened, and Cottus grabbed it with his small teeth. The whole paper slid towards the floor and flopped on the Vacana's head. He shook the pages off.
"Cottus!" shouted Chromae and Obriareus in synchronized surprise.
Cottus nosed through the pages.
"Mae, what's he doing?" Obriareus scratched his wing with his beak.
"I wish I knew, Obri," said Chromae. While Chromae and Obriareus were wondering, Cottus pulled the Neopian Times apart, spreading each page out on the floor. He seemed to be looking for something, although the two Neopets were confused. Everyone knows that petpets can't read.
Finding the article advertisement that Obriareus had been studying the day before, Cottus stood square on top of the page and snuffled the paper, seemingly pointing to the advertisement with his fuzzy nose.
"What is going on, Cottus?" Obriareus asked, shaking his feathers.
Cottus made a small squeaking sound.
"Yeah, with you," Obriareus said to the vacana, looking frustrated. "Gimme my paper back."
Cottus turned in a circle on top of the ad and drooled a little on the Weewoo's photographed feathers.
"Eww, disgusting... " Chromae sniffed.
Cottus stamped his foot on the Weewoo's head and looked up at them.
Obriareus thought hard, wondering what his petpet was trying to tell him. "Um. Maybe... I know... well... maybe I do know!" Obri exclaimed. "Now I'm really going to be creative, just like you said." He smiled at his sister.
"That's a Weewoo, and Weewoos are sort of like Pteris. Right? So... I think Cottus's saying that I should go flying again to find creative ideas. I think? And I think that's perfect." Obriareus launched into a run. "Bye, Mae, tell everyone I'll be home for dinner!" Not waiting for a response from either his sister or his Vacana, he practically flew to the next room to get the satchel that held his notebook and pencil.
But, just as he was turning the doorknob, Cottus caught his tail feathers with his teeth and pulled hard.
"Ouch! Cottus! Owwww! Let go!" Obriareus screeched. "What are you doing?"
Cottus jumped up and down, Obri's tail feathers still clenched in his mouth.
"You want me to stay? Or you wanna fly too? Is that it?" Cottus held on. "Ow! That still hurts... Please let go? Please?"
Dropping Obri's feathers, Cottus trotted back to the now-wrinkled paper, and stamped again on the Weewoo in the advertisement's photograph. Then, once again, he began to leap up and down.
Obriareus thought some more.
"Wait. Do you want to BE a cute bouncy flying Weewoo? Is that what you're telling me?" Obriareus looked from Cottus to Chromae to see if she had any better interpretations of Cottus's strange actions, but she just shook her head in amazement and confusion.
"I don't think Weewoos can fly, Obri," Chromae remarked.
Cottus continued to jump.
"Oh," Obri replied. "Really?" Mystified by his petpet's strange behavior, he didn't know what else to say.
Cottus tilted his head as if he was thinking, and stared at the two puzzled Neopets.
Obriareus and Chromae stared back.
Cottus darted forward, grabbed Obriareus's satchel and shook it until his reporter’s tools - the yellow lined notebook and light faerie pen - fell out. Obriareus thought for a second about shouting at Cottus to stop, but waited. He wished that petpets could just talk.
Cottus pushed the notebook with his nose until it was covering up the Weewoo advertisement.
Obriareus and Chromae scratched their heads.
Cottus climbed atop the notebook and stood waiting, his nubbin of a tail wagging.
Chromae looked from the petpet to the notebook to the floor to Obriareus, and back again, and suddenly realized that she had an idea. "Obri, what if he's not trying to tell you something about him or about Weewoos, but something about petpets? Weewoos are Neopian Times mascots, but they're petpets too, right?"
"I don't get it. What do you mean?" Obriareus responded.
Cottus twitched his tail hopefully.
"Well," Chromae tried to think, "Maybe your problem is that you're always going out to find ideas, but the best ideas are right here. Maybe Cottus isn't telling you to go out flying or that he wants to fly with you... maybe he's saying you should stay here and write about petpets, and doing that would help you write your Neopian Times story. I don't know if that makes any sense."
Cottus made a whirring sound and curled himself around Chromae's left hoof.
"Hah, I think HE likes it!" Obriareus answered. "And, y'know, guessing what Cottus was saying might've given me a new idea for a story. Communicating with petpets! Everyone has trouble with that! Do you think that's creative, Mae?"
"Yeah, that's definitely creative! I like it much better than the Turdles," Chromae said. "I know that you can do it!"
Under his woolly fur, Cottus turned up his nose in a Vacana smile. Content that his message had finally gotten through, he trotted over to sit quietly underneath Obri's writing desk, watching as Obriareus followed him, picking up his favorite yellow lined notebook and light faerie pen from the Neopian Times Weewoo's photographed face as he went, once again, to write.
Happy Petpet Appreciation Day, Neopia! I hope that your petpets bring you some amazing ideas.