9 Lessons on the Care and Feeding of Writers (from Cats)

(Let’s get this out of the way, right up front: What follows might be the most stereotypical post ever written by a blogger in the waxing age of selfies and waning one of cat photos. Using my cat’s perspective to gaze back at myself (and tease out a few lessons that might help you, a fellow writer) dovetails these two Internet phenomena so predictably I’m pretty sure I’ve found a wormhole in the space-meme continuum.)

Moving on.

Cats are the undisputed self-care experts. They excel at pampering themselves to the exclusion of all others. In fact, felines are only good at one thing: being themselves, in all their fussy, fuzzy glory.

Methinks writers could learn a little something from their favorite furry friends. You agree? Let’s dive in.

9. Have no shame in finding wherever’s comfortable.

This is Peanut. She does her best thinking time half-consumed by a very hungry couch.
This is Peanut. She has her best thinking time only when half-consumed by a very hungry couch.

You’ve heard it all before. Ernest Hemingway wrote standing up, some other guy wrote while supine on the couch, multiple authors liked to write in the buff, and Paul the Apostle wrote about 2/3 of the New Testament chained to a Roman guard, sitting in a Roman jail.

Where is your comfort zone? What if it’s just not the cozy little office you Pinterested into existence? What if it’s a diner? What if you can’t stand coffee shops, but prefer to write at the dining room table, in yoga pants? You do you.

8. Watch EVERYTHING.

As I was packing for a trip, this happened.
As I was packing for a trip, this happened.

You may have noticed that cats are prime sensors of motion and movement. The smallest twitch in a feline’s field of vision immediately draws his whole focus.

As a writer, you have a responsibility to notice the minute details. People, places, gestures, smells, textures, things. Your recall helps paint the picture for others. Just don’t let the people-watching get too creepy.

7. Leap tall obstacles in a single bound.

Has your cat ever met a refrigerator he couldn’t scale, a kitchen cabinet that couldn’t be walked upon, or a precarious surface that didn’t invite exploration?

Cats leap all the time. Do you? Take the risk; I hear the view’s pretty nice up there.

6. Put a premium on feeling your best.

Have you ever seen a cat stop everything for OMG I HAVE TO LICK MY SHOULDER RIGHT NOW KTHX?

Nagging minor problems can break your focus. I like to write with my hair up and off my face, glasses on, coffee at the ready. I control my environment (to the extent that I can) so that when I write, I have some semblance of unbroken focus.

5. On the other hand, dignity is overrated.

Peanut loves a good ball of socks. Because that makes sense.
Peanut loves a good ball of socks. Because that makes sense.

Sometimes, the jump from the floor to the bed doesn’t go so well. Sometimes, that delicate balancing walk over top of the doorway ends in an undignified drop to the floor. Sometimes that blog you launched doesn’t gain any traction right away. Or that guest post or article you pitched doesn’t work out.

This is ok. It’s also honestly ok to feel embarrassed, down and out, or upset. For a little while. But don’t begrudge yourself the little while to process the experience Trust me. Your emotional health is extremely important, even if it comes at the expense of your dignity every now and then.

4. Have a vice or two.

Cigarettes are so passe, and they give you cancer. But nobody has to know that you love to read YA novels (and you’re 45), or you watch old episodes of The Honeymooners for character and story inspiration. Or that you actually don’t love coffee and are more of a tea person.

Trust me, you can keep that to yourself.

3. Know when to ignore the world around you.

The difference between a cat and a dog is never more pronounced than when you try and call either one of them from across the room. The dog? Will stop what he’s doing and mosey on over. The cat? Might come over in a little while. Maybe. If she wants to.

Don’t forget to defend your writing time, from everyone, even your spouse, your kids, your employer, and anyone else that makes demands on your time. That time is yours to do what you were made to do. Use it.

2. Bestow your time generously on those who really deserve it.

A ceasefire brokered by catnip.
A ceasefire brokered by catnip.

And if they really deserve it at 3:30am, well, so be it.

1. Never, ever apologize for being yourself.

Writers are a bit strange. Some of us hide it better than others. And guess what? That’s OKAY. Your quirks make you the unique writer that you are; embracing your oddness makes you inimitable, unfakeable, irreplaceable. And the right people will love and appreciate you for exactly the person you are.

Just ask this guy.

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