4 Reasons My Cat Can’t Be a Writer

I’m gone again. (I’m actually perennially off in my own little world, but that’s not what I mean.) We’ve headed to the San Francisco Bay Area this past weekend for O’Reilly Publishing‘s Maker Faire, which if you don’t know about it you should. Maker Faire is based on O’Reilly’s Make magazine, and it’s a huge two-day festival of Do-It-Yourself projects that will make you crazy to become a Maker so you can own your own lightning machine. It’s basically Burning Man for mad scientists. (Hi, Harley!) And today I’m going to tell you why I’m not taking my cat.

  1. He does not like to share

    My cat and his brother have a long-standing routine in which one of them finds a comfortable place to sleep and the other turns up two minutes later and tries to lie down in the same place. Often they try to lie down on each other’s heads. This is, naturally, quite annoying to the one who owns the head, so after a certain amount of mutual grooming their conscientious tidying-up turns into bear-trap locks on each other’s spinal columns, and suddenly everyone is screaming.

    Makers and writers, however, have one big thing in common: we like to share.

    We like to share so much we’re willing to spend practically all our leisure time (and an unrecorded amount of ‘work’ time) sharing the visions that inhabit our teeming brains.

    Makers envision shareable material that can be built in their kitchens with a bit of papier-mache, alligator clips, small motors, and a whole lot of duct tape.

    Writers envision shareable material built out of words.

  2. He thinks he’s more important than anyone else

    You know Zaphod Beeblebrox of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the two-headed narcissist who gets himself elected the President of the Galaxy and then kidnaps himself so he can steal the one-of-a-kind spacecraft Heart of Gold with its bizarre Improbability Drive? (If you don’t, then you haven’t been paying attention for something like thirty years.)

    And when Zaphod is put into the ultimate torture machine, in which you’re shown the entire universe and your own teeny, tiny, inconsequential place in it so that your brain implodes, Zaphod comes out utterly pleased with himself because it’s shown him the entire universe, and he’s the most important thing in it?

    Yeah. That’s my cat.

    But Makers and writers are not the centers of their universes. That’s the whole point.

    Makers live in universes populated by other Makers, with their infinite communal potential to create cool stuff nobody has ever created before, like the Leave Me Alone Box that, when turned on, opens up so a hand can come out and turn it off again.

    Writers, of course, live in universes populated by our characters. We’re not the centers of those universes. In fact, we’re not even visible in those universes. We are the Divine Scribes watching from on high and frantically recording everything so we can share it later with the occupants of other universes, universes to which we do not have the keys.

  3. He can’t take deviation from his routine

    I’ve already mentioned my cat’s extraordinary faith in his own judgment, which leads him to do things like sit in a prominent place during dinner every blessed night (the top of a stepping stool, the middle of the kitchen floor, sometimes even one of our chairs at the table) with his back facing us so we will get the message that it’s time to stop dilly-dallying and give him his bedtime snack.

    He has the most articulate (and aggressive) back I have ever seen in my life.

    However, Makers and writers can’t afford to be locked into routine.

    If Makers refused to open their minds, they would be stuck inventing the same things over and over again. Lightbulb! Wow, amazing. Lightbulb! Yep, there it is again.

    And if we writers refuse to open our minds, we have no reason to write. We can’t all write Wuthering Heights over and over unto infinity, although I know some people would like to try. Emily Bronte already wrote it, and she wrote it beautifully, and nobody else is ever going to write it again.

    Really. . .done.

    We must write new stories, develop new characters, have our own special new perspectives, explore the same classic themes through the infinitely new variety of specific, perceived, telling detail that is the stuff of life on this earth.

  4. He poops in the car

    And I’m not even going to elaborate upon this one.

    Suffice it to say, I’ve never met a Maker who pooped in the car. That’s where they carry their cool gadgets they’re taking to Maker Faire. It’s their transportation, the way they get where they want to go. If they ruin their cars, they can’t get anywhere.

    Now, we do see a lot of fouling of nests going on in the publishing industry these days. But writers’ imaginations are our transportation, it’s how we get in and out of our fictional universes, it’s where we carry the virtual pens and paper on which we record everything our characters go through. If we ruin our imaginations—skating on the thin ice of imitation and television and brand names and movie-inspired gore and instruction-manual sex and quick marketing-crazed lunges for easy bucks—we’ll never write anything worth the effort.

    So I’m going to condense all my writing advice to you down into five simple little words, and I hope you take them to heart. They have certainly served me well in my decades of professional writing and editing:

    Writers—don’t poop in your cars.

2 thoughts on “4 Reasons My Cat Can’t Be a Writer

  1. While your cat may not be a real writer, if you haven’t noticed they do a very good job of trying. Every time I try to type at the computer the cat wants to walk across the keyboard. There have been some interesting, but illegible stories he’s written.

    1. Victoria says:

      You should see the stuff our other cat does to my husband while he’s working. He turns the mute button on his phone off & on during meetings.

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