A while back David Farland wrote a post about Keeping Writers As Pets. The post was written not for the writers, but for everyone else around them, reminding them of the things writers need from family and friends to keep going.
That’s when I took a look at my cats. Actually, it was kind of unavoidable, since one of them had planted himself between me and the keyboard and was trying to commandeer the mouse with his paw.
Farland’s “pet” theme made me think some writers are a lot like felines. The stereotypical writers (and artists in general) sleep all day, work all night, and are frequently misunderstood.
(Oh, don’t get me wrong, there are Dog Folk artists out there too, but that’s another post in itself.)
Stereotypes aside, what do we as writers need if we’re going to nurture ourselves? It’s so easy to forget about caring for ourselves and keeping those creative juices flowing properly.
So, with that in mind, I asked Cougar and Lakota, and here’s what they said:
Space. Lots and lot of space. But not just any space. Comfortable space is key. Take a look around your current writing space. Is there a window? Is your chair comfortable? Is your desk uncluttered and set at the right height for you?
Levels. When you have two or more cats in a house, you need to have levels. Levels to a cat are like rooms for people. When they need to get away from one another, they can jump and perch and get a change of perspective.
Writers need levels too. When we’re stuck or feeling creatively sluggish, a new perspective or a change of scenery can grant us sudden inspiration.
Foodies. Cats are finicky about what they eat. Unless you’re Lakota, who thinks he’s a dog and will scarf up just about anything. This is one area where many of us writers can be more like cats. Are you hooked on caffeine and sugar? Need that Frappaccinnomochalatto to get you through a writing session or else you’re just no good to anyone at all?
So many of us neglect eating properly and reach for the quick processed stuff because we’re too tired and it’s so much easier. We forget how important drinking water is for our brains and bodies and instead opt for soda or juice.
Try adding some fresh foods to your diet and drinking water instead of sugary beverages for a week. You’ll be amazed at how much better you feel, especially when it comes to being creative.
Play Time. Playtime is more than just fun and games for cats. Playtime is learning time. It’s also hunting (aka exercise) time. A cat without any playtime is a very bored and unhappy kitty. The same goes for writers. Our brains need new challenges and lots of stimulation.
A Clean Litter Box. Alright, maybe YOU don’t need a clean litter box, but a clean house, or at the very least, a clean desk, goes a long way to help your state of mind. Cats get stressed when their box isn’t cleaned to their exacting standards, and you can get stressed too if you’re trying to work in a pile of clutter (thought I was going to say something else, didn’t you?).
Sleep. Cats on average sleep 20 out of 24 hours in a day. I don’t advise you doing the same, but you do need a good night’s rest if your creativity is going to stay at its peak performance levels.
Socialization and Boundaries. It’s a myth that cats are loners. They need attention, but they take it on their terms. When they don’t want to be bothered, they’ll either give you a swat with a paw or get up and go someplace else.
On the flip-side, when they want attention, they let you know in no uncertain terms.
Keep yourself balanced with a bit of socializing. Get out every now and then and do something different. Also let those around you know when you need the quiet alone time (hopefully without having to leave any claw marks).
The Mental Scratching Post. Scratching posts aren’t for sharpening claws. The act of scratching stretches muscles and the helps relieve a cat’s stress if they’re annoyed with something. By the same token, you need your own mental version of a scratching post. What’s the best way to do that? Learn something new. Take a class, read a book…learn something and expand your horizons. You never know when you’ll need that for a new character.
Our pets can teach us a lot about ourselves and the way we live our lives. They may not speak English like we do, but they do have a language, and once you know how to speak it, you’ll be amazed at how much you’ll learn.
If you have a pet, what can they teach you about nurturing your inner writer? Tell us about it in the comments.