5 writing tips from my cat

Gilbert the cat by a sunny windowWhat can our pets teach us? Compassion. Certainly patience. Generosity. And unconditional love (with cats, as long as the food arrives on time). I know, because I’ve seen it in the movies.

In our house, Gilbert the cat swings between extremes–the sweet, cuddly cat purring near my ear and the ever-rebellious teenager (If they don’t see me it’s okay, and if I don’t get caught, it’s okay).

But what can his cat shenanigans tell me about writing? Here’s the short list:

1. Eat everything

Gilbert the cat devours the world. This has been hard on his digestive tract–including those four surgeries to remove inedible items, like rubber bands and watch bands, from his intestines.

Maybe not such a good idea.

But the lesson: Embrace life–all of it. Gobble it up. All the world’s experiences are food for writing.

I confess I’m still working on this one. I’m better at scarfing food than new adventures.

2. Jump on the counter

Also known as “Do whatever you want.” It’s easier to beg forgiveness than ask for permission. Gilbert the cat has a lot of practice at this.

And in writing? Write the poems and the kinds of poems that you want to write–right now. Follow rules only when they’re working for you. Otherwise, they’re rules for someone else.

Again, for me this is a lesson in progress. After a lifetime of trying to be good and fit in and make the right shapes, I’m trying to let go and listen for what’s really inside me.

3. Chase the catnip mouse

Bat it around. Pounce! Pick it up in your teeth and carry it around a while.

Play around with your writing a while–see what it does, how fast it skitters across the kitchen floor. Take some time to experiment with it, stretch the lines, shorten them up, kill an adjective or two, find the trapdoors and go through them. Enjoy the fun. Your writing won’t get away–too far.

4. Claws help

Sharpen your tools! I’m not talking about the catty scratches that draw blood. But Gilbert the cat will curl his claws to pick up that catnip mouse.

Keep your writing tools honed–your cutting verbs and your connections for metaphors, your quickest road into the zone. Use them.

5. That square of sunlight has your name on it

Warm up to chill out. All that good time stretched out in the middle of the afternoon  helps you relax into your next best metaphor, your next knock-out poem.

I know a lot of times I think I should be working as hard as I can–but look at that cat sprawled out across the carpet! Consider it your invitation.

Where do you find writing reminders? Can you keep your cat off the kitchen counter?