Everything You Need to Know About Writing Can Be Taught by Cats
My cats do not give a f*ck about anything.
They eat, they nap, they chase, they meow. Those are the basic structural components of their day. They genuinely don’t care about anything else. If something happens that they don’t understand, they’re totally chill about it.
The most concerned they ever get is when it’s the weekend and I’ve slept in past their breakfast time, and at that point, they have no qualms about slowly and gently putting their full weight on my chest, and announcing, “Mraow.”
In other words, if there’s an issue, they don’t mess around. They spot the problem, the probable cause, and the most likely solution, which they execute without regard for anything or anyone else. Iconic.
Me, I’m a little different. I’m more complicated. My needs are more complex, my thoughts diverge from “eat, drink, sleep, play,” and my reactions to things that are outside my control are way more high-key. I’m very prone to getting my feelings hurt, and I am easily led to panic.
For me, problem-solving isn’t as straightforward. I might be able to identify a cause, but to solve it, I worry I’ll hurt people’s feelings, be an inconvenience, impose myself unnecessarily on others, or in any other way be a burden. And it holds me back.
So when I sit down to write, my inspiration comes from any number of sources. But as my role models? I look to my cats.
Writing is inherently vulnerable.
When I write, even if it’s a story about something totally unrelated to me, I’m putting a small or large part of myself out there.
On the one hand, it’s a little presumptuous. I’m saying, this is my idea, my thought, and I think it’s good enough that other people should read it, too.
But on the other hand, I’m opening myself up to criticism. When I write a story, I’m putting my heart on my sleeve for everyone to see and judge.
I can’t help but worry about what the reaction will be. Will readers understand my intent? Will the message get passed across? Will anyone feel attacked? Even stories like this one, that have nothing to do with me, will still get comments that say my idea is worthless, that I’m stupid, that I should know better.
And most of my stories are way more personal than that.
My cats are with me when I write.
Physically, they’re normally on my lap, on my laptop, meowing for attention nearby, or otherwise being nuisances. But they’re present in my mind as well when I write.
OK, I’ll think to myself. I’ve identified a problem. I know how to fix it. I’m gonna go ahead and write about that. No further thought necessary. Be like the cats.
They’ll purr encouragingly nearby.
It’s strange because, with every story, I am aiming for widespread reach and success, while hoping to miss the more negative aspects. Heart in my throat, I’ll hit submit and just pray that this story goes viral, for all the right reasons, with nary a negative comment to be seen.
People think writers aren’t vulnerable.
I think because it takes quite a lot of bravery to bare yourself online, people think that authors have thicker skin than most. I can only speak for myself, but I will readily confess to the crime of hypersensitivity. So when I see the response to some of my stories, even if they’re just minorly negative, it still hurts.
And this is especially true for successful ones. People who have reached some level of success are perceived as bulletproof. It’s not true.
Some of my favorite authors on here have been open and honest about their ongoing struggles as writers, and for that, I am super appreciative. Otherwise, I would fall into the same trap I see others falling into with me: thinking that because someone has seen a lot of well-received stories on a platform, they’re invulnerable. I’ve been guilty myself of thinking, “Wow, they really have it made. Must be nice.”
But successful authors still struggle. They still have ups and downs and feel pressure to maintain their super-status. And being successful is never a reason to write a nasty comment, in my opinion.
You know who really is impervious to criticism? My cats.
As much as I wish I could stop people being mean to me online, it’s time for me to admit it’s going to be a lot easier to develop a thicker skin. If I want t keep writing, especially the emotional, opinionated stories I love writing so much, I have to get over the fact that people, of course, will disagree with me on some things.
Cats are funny — they’re needlessly cruel, manipulative, irascible, obstinate. But because they are just furry animals who live for naps in the sun, they don’t care about (or even understand) criticism. They’ve never let anyone else’s opinion stop them from chasing their dreams, even if their dreams are just to find and destroy the bag of treats I’ve hidden from them.
They’re literally shameless, and I for one would love to channel that energy in my writing.
When it comes to writing, my cats are the most inspirational people I know.
Writing this story as well as all the others I put out there is hard. Honestly. Weird or silly or laughable as it may seem, I re-think a lot of my stories and edit them to be less offensive, more mild, easily palatable and unchallenging. Not because that’s the direction my writing takes me, but because I worry about the response if I don’t.
Time for me to be like my cats, give fewer f*cks, and chase what’s important to me without worrying about owing my readers, or how the article might come across. Starting now.
I’m a writer, and I look to my cats for inspiration and role model behavior — and you should too.