The Sun Singer's Travels

Malcolm R. Campbell's World

Learning from cats makes us better writers

People who don’t own cats say they don’t understand cats.katycloseup

Others say that households with cats are, in reality, controlled by the cats through a complex mechanism of cat behaviors, including purring, biting, pretending to act screwed up, doing things they know are “wrong” without caring about so-called “house hold rules,” and mind control.

For example: our three cats expect my wife and I to follow a daily schedule based on the following rationale:

To every hour – tick, tock, tick, tock
There is moment – tick, tock, tick, tock
And an instant for every mandate between dawn and dusk

A time to eat, a time to sleep
A time to run, a time to lurk
A time to pounce, a time to purr
A time to sit on laps, a time to refrain from sitting on laps

There are more verses to the cats’ song of life, but they would take more space than I have in this post and, quite frankly, making sense of them (the verses) is about as difficult as fully comprehending the relationship between, say, the Qabalistic Tree of Life and one’s favorite deck of Tarot cards.

As a master magician might advise, meditating on cats is the key to finding one’s muse and one’s writer’s voice.

Since I’m 37.5% psychic, I know what you’re thinking: “Malcolm, that’s a load of crap.”

Yes it is, but the important point here is that it’s high-quality crap, illustrating (among other things) that the importance of crap is often undervalued by folks with a constipated value system.

The first step to meditating on cats is to stop asking the question: “What do the cats think they’re doing?”

katyreflectionAsking that question proves you’re not meditating, and besides, it’s a fool’s journey because cats operate totally on either (a) expedient and evolutionary instincts, or (b) instructions beamed down to them from the cat mother ship circling the earth.

When a writer meditates on cats, s/he finds that his or her instincts begin to work in mysterious ways during the writing process. Basically, s/he stop’s questioning what s/he is doing and why because wondering why one writes the way one does is a fool’s journey because (a) applying logic to the creative flow of a story gums the damn thing up, and (b) it’s akin to trying to observe an electron without your observations changing the electron’s location and momentum.

The second step to meditating on cats is (hence), don’t look at the cats.

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Like electrons, cat’s know when you’re looking at them, so they throw up either a hairball or a smokescreen to keep you from truly seeing anything other than what you expect to see.

Cats, on the other hand, are more likely to do their own thing when they think you’re unaware of them. When it comes to the daily schedule (eat, sleep, run, lurk, and laps), they probably think my wife and I are stupid and can’t see the obvious: that the schedule is “off.” The more we ignore them, the more they create a sense of wrongness throughout the household until we resume doing what they expect us to be doing at various hours of the day.

That said, if you try to meditate on cats by looking at them or logically understanding them, you’ll be stumbling over cats and the wrong words on the page from dawn to dusk. When it comes to potential story lines, authors are encouraged to think of situations and ask “why not.” When it comes to accepting the results of that question, asking “why” about the story you need to write is a fool’s journey and just as dangerous to your peace of mind and writing prowess as asking why the cats you’re meditating upon are doing whatever they’re doing.

When you truly meditate upon cats, why is never an issue. It’s best to sense cats while pretending you don’t know they’re in the room. When you can do that, your writing will improve a hundredfold because in sensing cats, you will have discovered that your relationship to your story is the same as your relationship to your cats. Let your cats be cats and your story be your story without getting in the way of either.

When you deviate from this approach, you gum the damn thing up, and that’s akin to trying to observe a story like an editor without those observations changing the story into low-quality crap.

Basically, you should always wear a pair of the cat’s pajamas when you write.

–Malcolm

 

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