I never intended to write about cats. I believed I was solely a literary fiction writer and a freelance writer. Strangely, I freelanced about anything but cats: education text, politics, literary criticism, biographies, commercial matters. I ignored the huge passion and life interest that was most obvious.
But at some point, I started using cats in my writing. First I wrote a cat fantasy fiction novel. Then I wrote a cat-themed memoir (and am now working on a second). I met the folks at Catster, joined the Cat Writers’ Association, and a world of cat writing and cool cat folks opened. How could I not write about cats? Suddenly, I had ideas and inspiration. I even aimed to write about our dogs, though I feel that I have more to say about cats.
Do you believe that you want to write about cats? Or do you already? Here’s some advice — some of it cat-specific, and some that applies to any writing:
- It takes discipline — daily or regular practice: Some writers write best in the morning, others at night. I feel most fine-tuned when I write daily, in some capacity. It might be a Catster article; it might be a piece of the memoir. But it keeps me tuned. That said, I am not perfect. My writing has not been my highest priority in the past several months as I dealt with big personal stuff at home. But you can bet I felt the hole in my heart. Writers are wired to write, and we miss it when we aren’t doing it, even though it can be tough.
- Be patient with yourself — you might write a lot of crap first: Language can be a really clumsy medium. You might know what you want to say but can’t make it sound perfect. You might not even know what you want to say yet. Write a lot. That’s how you get better. And read. This is very important because, subconsciously or consciously, you will assess the writing and notice what works and what doesn’t. Read a variety of genres from a variety of sources. I love to read fiction at night before bed. Tim Ferriss suggests doing so in his book, The 4-Hour Work Week, as a relaxation and sleep inducer. I agree.
- Find the topics that resonate with you — this will produce the truest writing: What do you care about most? Crafting a fine fiction story? Writing about trap-neuter-return? Writing about adoption efforts? Taking adorable photos of your cat and crafting great captions and dialogue? Find your passion. This might take some time as you experiment and try different things.
- Observe your cats — they’re a great source of inspiration and ideas: We all love cats. The way your cat flops or leans into you for a head rub could be the next idea for your blog post. Does your cat chirp or talk to you? What is he saying? Learn to observe your cats with a quiet mind, and the ideas will come. For example, I am giving my cat Rama chemo pills. At first, I was very stressed by this, as I have to wear gloves, and it’s best if the pills don’t get wet. I immediately made the process as difficult as possible by using a piller. I later learned that Rama loves pill pockets and will gobble pill and pocket with no trouble. Very easy for all, and it was the start of an idea for a post about how I make things harder than they need to be.
- Develop a thick skin: Writing is not always easy. You’re putting your heart out there, and people can jump all over it. You’ll get rejected. Additionally, people in the animal world can have strong opinions, and sometimes, people can behave badly online.
- Choose your medium but be open to change: Once, I thought I was only a book writer. Now, I also write online, and I am developing my blog. Is your interest blogging? Books? Print? Other types of articles? Fiction or nonfiction? Photography or visual art? Find the avenues that work best for you.
- Stay true to your message: The more you write, you’ll know when you craft a message that’s true to your heart. Your audience will tell you, too, with responses.
Do you write about cats? I’d love to hear your advice, or any insights you have on writing about these amazing companions and creatures.
More by Catherine Holm:
About Catherine Holm: Cat Holm is the author of The Great Purr, the cat-themed memoir Driving with Cats: Ours for a Short Time, and a contributor to Rescued: The Stories of 12 Cats, Through Their Eyes. She’s also a yoga instructor. Cat love living in nature and being outside every day, even in winter. She is mom to six adorable cats, all of them rescues.