5 Lessons My Cat Taught Me About Writing

Who knew that I could make so many connections between my cat and striving for publishing success as a first-time author? Take a cue from Mozart the Cat and you may find you have what it takes to write a bestseller.

5 unexpected things my cat taught me about writing

1. Focus

Like any ambitious first-time author, my cat knows exactly what he wants. He doesn’t just ogle my whole plate of food. He lasers in on the salmon — specifically, that little piece that just broke off near the end.

When you write, find the little nugget that tells the bigger story. Keep your writing sharply focused. Sure, all bestselling authors first need to know the basics of their plot — the beginning, middle and end — but details are what make the story world come alive. Just as Mozart hones in on that one bit of fish, keep your eye on the little things: faint noises in the background of a scene, how the light hits a character’s face, or even their scars. Details may be tiny, but can reveal so much.

2. Adjust

If he could have it his way, Mozart would take over my house. He’d love to scratch and climb my furniture. But, before he can conquer too much, I threaten him with a squirt from the water bottle. He high tails it off his perch. Clearly, he’s not going to get what he wants by hanging out in the sofa arm where I can see him clearly. So, he tries a different angle: he stalks me from another spot, one where he won’t be so visible. Perhaps he’s behind me. That way, he’ll pounce unnoticed. If you’re working on a story and it just doesn’t seem to be clicking, try another angle. Or, write from a different POV character. You may find the refreshing new approach makes it much easier to get ideas flowing.

3. Persist

Eventually, I can feel those vertical pupils bearing down on my food. He’s not giving up. I pick up my squirt gun. He knows what’s coming, so he fakes disinterest. I’m so gullible. I figure he’s given up — but he hasn’t. He’s just waiting me out. Don’t ever give up on a story, or a book you want to write. Every “No” you get, or every rejection just puts you one step closer to your goal of publication. Every major bestselling author out there has tales of multiple — even epic — rejections before they got the “yes” that changed their lives. Keep focused on your goal and keep plugging away until you get that brass ring.

4. Pounce

Because he’s focused, adjusted and persistent, he’s ready to strike when the opportunity presents itself. And present itself it does. For the nanosecond I become distracted over something, his power strikes with the force of a ninja; claws unfurled, he hooks a chunk of salmon. Before I even became aware of what just happened, he’s escaped into another room with his booty.

As a writer, you have to be ready to pounce on opportunities when they present themselves. And that means always being up to speed on your craft. If you’re feeling uninspired by your character descriptions or if your dialogue drags, take a class. Study other novels that excel at what you need to improve. Reach out to peers. Most importantly, keep your ear low to the ground of the writing world — that way, you’ll be in the best position to strike when you spot an opportunity.

5. Nap

I’ve heard that cats sleep up to 23 hours a day. And, boy, when my cat naps, he’s out! No wonder that once he’s up, he springs to life. Napping recharges him as much as it boosts me after a writing session. Scientists have long praised the restorative properties of a quick 30-40 minute nap in the middle of your day. That luxurious dose of REM sleep can revitalize your memory, sharpen your brain and heighten your creativity, inviting your best ideas to flow.

I get my best ideas after a nap. Suddenly, I find a way to repair that awkward phrasingin my opening paragraph, or rework my thesis. Plus, napping puts me in a fantastic mood — there’s no better way to brainstorm.

So what can you learn about writing by observing the creatures in your life? I want to hear your stories.