Writing About Cats

By Elisa Black-Taylor

Those who don’t write about cats probably have the assumption that writing about cats is easy. You have cat news, cat health, funny cats, cat events. The topics never end when it comes to our favorite subject: CATS! Well, sometimes writing is easy and sometimes it isn’t. I got the idea for this story as I read Michael’s (PoC) comment on my last article where he talks about the foods he eats while writing comments on the different articles.

Writing about cats

Writing about cats. Photo by psyberartist. Collage by Michael

BINGE EATING AND BINGE WRITING

I have a confession to make. When I first started writing about cats, the ability to write appeared to be directly tied to sugar and boiled peanuts! I had to keep junk food on hand to be able to produce a story. Now it tends to revolve more around my internal moods. If I’m worried or stressed, I can’t write. I tend to write in long bursts of what I call a “writing binge.” In case none of the readers here have noticed, I may go a week without anyone hearing from me, then I’ll write three or four stories in a row. Laura and I have both been on a diet and have lost 80 pounds between us, so no more high sugar comfort foods to get me through writing an article. Now I eat yogurt or high fiber cereal if I find myself hungry while working on a story. The majority of my writing is done while I’m at work since Sealy decided to become a lap cat. It’s impossible to balance a computer and a cat on my lap at the same time.

I had a lot more to write about a few years back when I was reporting mostly on animal cruelty cases. Then Michael did a survey and learned the readers here want a minimum of bad news. So now I try to concentrate more on positive stories, as well as “adventures” my cats have taken me on through the years.

WRITERS BLOCK

Do all cat writers suffer from writers block? I hope I’m not alone in this. I don’t see how Michael writes several articles each day. Not only is it tough to find enough topics, but to have the motivation to write when life in general is trying to run you insane.

I have a lot of references I use in writing about cats. I subscribe to quite a few newsletters from different online vets. While I only use their information as a base, the emails do give me a starting point on a topic I’d like to research and learn more about. Most of the writing I’ve done over the past year have come from learning about subjects I want to know about, and hope others will be interested in as well.

Writer’s block used to terrify me. I was afraid my brain had run out of information and I’d never be able to write another story. The THOUGHT of going a week with no ideas meant I WENT a week without writing because the stress of not having any ideas to write about circled around on itself. Now I’ve learned to wait out the blocks. Most days I can’t just sit down in front of a keyboard and come up with a story. Learning to accept my limits has been my most difficult goal to overcome.

Ideas always tend to come when I least expect them. Sometimes my favorite radio talk show host will give me an idea. Or I’ll wake up in the middle of the night with a story idea and I’ll get up to write. Sometimes, when I’m too tired, I’ll text the story subject to my daughter’s cellphone to remind me to write the story when I get up.

MY PERSONAL CAT EXPERIENCES

Many of my personal experiences give me ideas. One of my favorites was Are You A Cat Sniffer? The idea for this article came from the smell of laundry products on the supposedly “stray” cats turned into the shelter where we did rescue. I can tell you that Sealy is one of the very few who came to us without that fresh laundry odor attached to him. Sealy was a feral, and the earthy scent that still remains on him is enough proof for us. Several of our rescues were what I’d consider stray, but just as many didn’t smell at all like they’d lived outdoors.

I’ve had a lot of readers tell me my personal stories are my best. That’s the type of story that drew me to PoC in the first place. I LOVED to read the stories about other cat lovers and their cats. I wish more people would send Michael stories. I believe the personal experience stories by those visiting the website have declined. I really miss those.

On days when I feel the need to write, I’ll troll the internet by Googling “cat news” or “cat heroes” or any combination where I think I’ll get some good information. A lot of you may not realize it, but I also write about dogs and genealogy for www.examiner.com. I’ve also covered a lot of criminal domestic violence stories for Examiner. This allows me to occasionally switch my mind from cats to dogs or my long dead ancestors. They’re the only ones who don’t critisize me. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about writing, it’s to grow a backbone or you’ll spend most days in tears.

PROFESSIONAL ORGANIZATIONS FOR WRITERS

Michael helped me become a professional member of Cat Writer’s Association three years ago when I began writing more for PoC. I also belong to their closed group on Facebook and now have many professional cat writer friends. We have a very elite group on there, and each nomination or request to join the group must be evaluated before being added. It’s a good place to post our work and to talk about cat topics. There are writing groups everywhere. This one is just my favorite.

MY GOAL IS TO WRITE A BOOK

My personal goal is to write a book about Sealy. He’s had quite a year as we come upon the first anniversary of Sealy’s time with us. I really need to read Homer’s Odyssey by Gwen Cooper. I’d like to use her style to write a book because Sealy and Homer have a lot in common. Sealy has a large following on his Facebook page Prayers For Sealy and I believe a book would sell.

I’m not ashamed to admit I haven’t a clue what I’m doing in writing a book. I’ve done several chapters already from when Sealy first joined us. I still need to go back and get the dates of when he first played and when he took his first lap nap. Events considered normal for the average cat are extraordinary for Sealy, who proves every day he’d different just by being alive through everything he’s been through.

I may even have a bestseller on my hands. IF I can ever get myself organized enough to write the story, find a publisher or decide on a strictly ebook format.

WHAT I’VE LEARNED ABOUT WRITING

I’ve learned a lot since I began writing about cats. I’ve always been a writer. Since 5th grade and perhaps before. My friends aren’t surprised I’m a writer now because I was a writer as far back as the 1970’s. I wrote for the school paper, where I was chief editor and photographer my senior year. I wrote for my local newspaper my senior year, where I had a weekly column about my school.

I’ve had three years of journalism (high school and college). My dream in life was to write a horror novel. That dream began in 1993, and I’m still trying to write that horror novel.

Writing about cats comes easy once I get started. I don’t use a lot of long words that make the reader search for a dictionary to know what I’m trying to say. I learned many years ago that it’s best to write on a 5th grade level, as most people have reached that level of reading. I know I have a lot of young readers who keep up with me. I have a few very young readers that keep up with my cat Furby.

I also write more from an editorialist standpoint than as a news reporter. That’s technical language meaning I’m likely to put my foot in my mouth on occasion instead of writing only facts with no personal opinion thrown in. I can’t help it! Some cat topics make me very angry and my mouth just shoots off instructions to my fingers without clearing it with my brain first. I also consider much of my work “story weaving.” A lot of times I’ll find a story that has been covered by many different sources, with none of them giving all of the information in one place. I’ll try to piece it all together into one article.

For those of you who would like to try writing, I can assure you it’s good therapy. It’s the one thing that got me through losing my ex in 2009. I now find the more I write, the easier it becomes. Once I get started, that is. I’ve written more than 500 articles since late 2009.

I suggest a new writer get computer software specifically for writing. I use Journal5. It’s free for 45 days, with an option to purchase after that. I got a discount because I’m a writer. I’ve stayed in touch with the software developer and keep him updated on how much I enjoy his program. I also like PageFour software, although I don’t have it on my computer right now. I believe it will be the better software when I actually write my book about Sealy. Many writers still use Microsoft Word or Google docs to do their stories. Google docs offers the convenience of writing online from any computer. This comes in handy if you’re bad about crashing computers and losing your work. I don’t get along well with Microsoft Word and have a tendency to erase my work without meaning to.

POOR MICHAEL

I want all of you to know what I put Michael through with many of my articles. When he’s not defending my honor, he’s most likely shaking his head. I send him cryptic email messages like “this will be the most bizarre story ever” or “breaking news-urgent!!” I don’t do assignments well at all. Assignments remind me too much of the homework we were required to do in school. Michael doesn’t know the topic I’m writing on until I email it to him and he has a chance to read it before publishing. Since I don’t have internet on my computer anymore, the photo collage to go with an article is sent separately, since I can only send one attachment at a time using my cell phone. This means Michael has to keep up with twice as much coming in from me whenever I submit an article. Michael never questions my topics, but I imagine I’ve given him quite a few headaches over the years.

ANY SUGGESTIONS READERS?

I’d love any comments out there from the readers. Especially from those who also write. Do you have any special food you nibble on? Do you have to be in a particular mood to write or can you just sit down and write anytime? Any secrets you care to share? What writing software program do you recommend? And readers who don’t write-what type of stories interest you the most?

Elisa

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Writing About Cats — 18 Comments

  1. Great and interesting article Elisa – I would like one day to be able to do more than write big comments – sometimes I write enough to make an article but I have never made an article. There’s something about the homework thing as you say maybe – or the pressure. Whereas its easy to really go for it in the comments and bore everyone with another story about Red or me and my cats 🙂

    But I guess what I am trying to say is I would like to be able to get a bit more organised like you and make a few articles. I too love the personal ones. They have the most meaning for me. For example Michaels one about his first cats from yesterday. I love hearing about other commenters cats: Sealy Furby – Marvin Bigfoot – Josef Walter, or just the tabbies who live next door to Michael – to name a few. I’m also better at writing about those things myself, mixed with a bit of theory and philosophy, but I am no good when it comes to hard science. I have never worked at a vets or had much experience with cat health beyond a few experiences of my own. But I want to be able to write about something to do with my life with my cats and turn that into a philosophical question or theory based on my little experiences. I don’t seem to have the where with all to do it outside of commenting.

    If only I could turn my commenting into little articles – thats something you seem to have mastered Elisa – what to write about, where to start and where to finish. It’s a sign of a good writer and not somebody who blabs alot and spells things wrong the whole time like I do. I think if I have anything interesting to say its better in conversation or comment form- at least until I can learn to organise myself like you!

    • You can do it 😉 Just think…a stream of consciousness after a glass of wine…..Add some personal touches and a touch of hard fact, a smidgen of philosophy and a bit about human nature (because we pretty well dictate a cat’s life).

      The hardest part for me is working out the topic because I have about 8,000 topics on PoC…help. If a cat book has 250 pages that makes 32 books.

      • You certainly are prolific Michael. Non stop really. Then, an article like the one you wrote yesterday is so poignant. It sort of leaves me speechless. Numb fingers. How to respond? I could launch into philosophy regarding afterlife vs. continued life from a quantum theory perspective, or just keep my mouth shut and admire your candid approach. How can that much love not have lasting meaning?

        As for Marc in writing articles instead of comments…I think I have read dozens of articles by you already. In the form of comments. Keep it up. It adds so much to the posts. It it makes me happy when you mention Marvin or Bigfoot. It has been great seeing more of your cats via video. Thanks for that Michael.

        Like Marc, the words are in my head, but they are hard to put in writing. For me it is more like spewing. I no longer have shame about not finishing high school because I had my own company with one hundred employees for many years, and have done consulting ever since. I always use an editor if I need to write an important letter. I even own books like “letters very executive must write” lol. Formula letters. Pretty funny, eh?

        I have always admired the written word. It must be why ever since the first week I adopted Bigfoot and accidentally found PoC, I’ve been a daily reader.

        It is actually pretty amazing what you have done Michael. And, giving a platform for Ruth Kattadora and Elisa is a perfect balance.

        • I presume you liked My First Cat if you are referring to that. It is a story full of joy and pain in equal measure. It was the best time of my life except for the death of Missie which is the worst. You should write something, anything. It should done from the heart and spewed out.. 🙂

  2. People have said to me I should join writers groups and try to earn money by writing, but that’s not for me.
    I don’t like to conform as to how you should write, it makes it stilted and samey.
    I’m ‘the cat who walks alone’ and I like best to design posters telling the story, maybe some are childish looking, but especially with educating about the cruelty of declawing, hopefully they get the message through to some people who can’t be bothered to read the article.
    I like to write in simple terms and not make it too long so as to lose any reader’s attention, about things I know or have experienced and sometimes fictitious short stories based on real life, I’ve won a few local prizes and I’m happy at that.
    Writing for PoC is enjoyable Marc, not being paid means you don’t feel pressured, I think you should just write as you talk, I always find your posts interesting. I’m sure Michael would correct your spelling.
    I enjoy simple articles written by cat lovers about their pets, I love reading about your cats.

    • Ruth I too think your posters are great. Infact they inspire me to want to make posters myself. I got my degree in fine art and always like the visual way of communicating. Id love to be able to make posters too. People understand so much so quickly from them and that makes then a powerful and useful medium.

      • Thanks Marc, you should have a go at making posters, especially as you have a degree in fine art.
        I bought some CDs of graphics from Amazon years ago and use them on Micrografix which is an old programme and sometimes plays up a bit but I like it best of all the ones I’ve tried.
        Then I convert the finished poster to Jpeg and Michael takes care of the rest.

        • Excellent idea, Ruth…I’d love to see some more posters. This new site presents them better (larger) and more easily. If people don’t like writing images in the form of a poster story are a great alternative.

  3. I wrote two novels about cats in space with Anne McCaffrey, The Tales of the Barque Cats, Catalyst and Catacombs. These were ships’ cats on space vessels. To find out what their lives were like, I interviewed local cats (psychically of course) and asked them what they thought their lives would be like on a space ship. I had them all over for movie night to watch Aliens and imagine if they were Jonesy, the orange tabby who was the real hero of the movie. They had some amazing ideas and insisted that we include parts about when they were worshipped in ancient Egypt and more importantly, WHY they were worshipped, which comes out in Catacombs. This is a much neglected aspect of feline history and myth. Even Joseph Campbell didn’t cover it adequately.
    On more current (this time instead of the future) cat matters I recalled conversations I’d had with the late Kittibits before his death in 2008. He told me about his feral family and also, since he was an outdoor cat until the coyotes got too predatory, what life was like among the wild creatures. He is my co-author on the Spam books although Cisco, who is a more energetic and adventurous sort of cat, is more the inspiration for Spam’s personality. I asked HIM what he would do if I accidentally started dating one of those vampires that’s been hanging out on the Olympic Peninsula lately, stalking high school girls. He assured me that he would track me down, bring me back in time to feed him and Pancho, and somehow or other make sure the vampire was history.
    The only problem with interviewing cats is that they lie. Not maliciously, just to see how gullible you are. They do love attention from the media so they want to keep you guessing. This little tendency of theirs sent me off on some false starts several times and I had to come back and say, “You went over to the local Marine base and brought back a squadron to save me? Really?” And they would grin a Cheshire grin and start again with, “Well, would you believe…?”

  4. I’m not a writer myself,I just enjoy reading PoC and sometimes commenting.
    I love your posters Ruth,striking in their simplicity they never fail to get the message across even without the written article.
    I must admit I don’t properly read long articles,I just skim them,I like the straight to the point ones rather than the rambling ones.

    • You are an internet surfer and writers should digest your comment 😉 I say that an internet article should be between 300 and 750 words. Sub-headings are useful too. The problem is Google likes a bit of solid text. So short articles might not do as well as longer ones sometimes in terms of being found by Google and listed.

      I try and get the point quickly and in fact often make it in the first two lines. Pretty much all web surfers have learned to speed read or skim and get the meaning that way. I certainly do. That is why I struggle to avoid typos! When I read my article, to check it, I try and read it word for word, but it is hard to do that.

      I agree posters and collages etc are useful to get the message across fast and that certainly applies to Ruth’s.

      • An internet surfer lol yes I am but I have such a busy life I have to fit my surfing around kids,cats,dogs and going out to work and evenings are for quality time with my little gang.
        I’d rather read six straight to the point articles than one long spiel,I think you’ve got it exactly Micheal,yours always hold my attention.
        Marc do make some posters,I love seeing Ruth’s posts in pictures also,I’d love to see yours.

  5. Eliza seems to have taken up writing as a distraction from sorrow and has bloomed into a author with a little help from “P.O.C” editor/owner Mr Michael.Broad.Honestly,reading, writing,horse-racing, traveling and my pets have kept me sane and busy after I quit my employment as a “Marine Engineer”. I would advise writing as the best form of active mental activity to people who are physically idle but have time on their hands.Who knows, as a writer you might strike the big time with a magic bullet novel, blog or news scoop?If not, nothing like blogging and exchanging information with fellow bloggers.Most important, writing is a natural talent akin to music or sports that has to be inherent in a person and can never ever be formed due to training.Before invention of the “Internet” i would write for the columns “Letter to the editor” in newspapers,the pen or typewriter being my medium rather than the “Internet Keyboard”. One fact, to be a writer a person has to have a decent bank balance as writing blogs or novels is never a guarantee for a fixed income or if lucky , a millionaire writer.Michael seems to be extremely successful with “P.O.C” and as contributors to “P.O.C” have definitely enriched ourselves through exchange of cat knowledge through our own personal experiences with our cats.I always wonder as to the source of Michael’s excellent knowledge on cat topics, very relevant and encyclopaedic.

    • Thank you Rudolph. As to sources of knowledge, I use a very wide range. I have many books on my bed (a double bed, one half of which is covered in books) and I know how to search the internet. I also use odd sources such as Google Scholar. Above all, I think about cats a lot 😉 Sharing information through writing is good for our health and for our cats.

    • I wrote a dog article for hubpages a few years ago about a dog in Canada. It got over a milllion hits. I couldn’t believe it. And writing is much cheaper than grief counceling. Sealy book will be a challenge but I really think it’s my best bet for a bestseller.

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