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.
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.
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.
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?