I had some short stories, poems and photographs to share ... and so here I am

Behind Every Good Writer Is A Very Talented Cat



Let me introduce you to Muffin, our adorable Siamese cat (lilac point), who has just celebrated her first birthday. I had to share these photos with you after being inspired by an image of Minx's cat on her blog, The Inner Minx.

I'm not sure if the title of this post is true for all writers, but it certainly is for many that I know or have read about. The celebrated New Zealand writer Katherine Mansfield often talked about her cat, and seemed to believe that it gave her inspiration and strength.

How many other writers - and don't forget that many live isolated, solitary existences - rely heavily on the presence of their dogs and cats. I find that having Muffin curled up somewhere close is comforting when I'm sailing off on a long and arduous section of storyline. Also, I soak up her energy and passion as she darts forward and tries to get her gorgeous paws all over my keyboard. What a wonderful way to get motivated for a writing session!

It seems that academics also share the belief that cats and literary endeavours can go hand in hand. I have heard lots of good things about the book Writing With Cats: An Inspirational and Practical Guide For Writers by Gerald J. Schiffhorst, an English professor in the US.

A blurb on Amazon.com, says: "An experienced writing teacher uses humor to help emerging writers develop greater confidence and shows why writers and cats have long had a creative relationship. Gerald J. Schiffhorst, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus of English at the University of Central Florida, has taught writing and literature for more than 35 years. He has published eight books, including McGraw-Hill's "Short Handbook for Writers" and is now an editorial consultant in Winter Park, Florida."

On the website writer-on-line.com Rachelle Nones writes:

'Throughout the book, Schiffhorst closely examines the many ways in which cats function as a literary muse. Schiffhorst believes strongly that every writer can benefit from utilizing a catlike point-of-view towards the writing process; in particular, the cat’s strong powers of observation, focused attention and contemplation. He advises his writing students, 'If you are serious about writing, don’t buy a new computer; what you need is a cat.'

For an added treat, there’s a listing of notable author’s [sic!!] cats, stories inspired by cats, and historical cat tales. In one chapter, Schiffhorst highlights the role of cats in literary history. He reports that Samuel Johnson visited the fishery daily to buy oysters for his beloved cat Hodge; William Butler Yeats once cut off a part of his coat so as not to disturb a sleeping cat at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin; and the French poet Stephane Mallarm√© once wrote, “mon chat est un compagne [sic!; compagnon] mystique.” (Translation: My cat is a mystical companion.)"

(Sorry, but I couldn't leave those errors go unchecked!)

I, for one, needed no convincing that a cat was an important part of my writing package. They can add so much to the environment we set up for ourselves, the convivial digs needed for the production of something vital.

Also, while she is here, Muffin would like to join me in sending a special get well message to Noelle, one of this blog's most regular and loyal readers, who has had a stay in hospital. We send all of our best thoughts your way.

11 comments:

skint writer said...

very weird - came to this post through Books Inq but the last post I can see when coming directly to your blog is Aug 31st - is it me or is it blogger?

Love the cat btw

skint writer said...

sorted it now - some stupid setting in Firefox -

still loving the cat :)

Lynne W. Scanlon said...

Hi, Shameless!

Many is the time my late dog, Toby, voiced his opinion about my efforts to write fiction. It was his strong belief that if I took him for longer and more frequent walks in the woods, I'd be more inspired!

Lynne AKA The Wicked Witch of Publishing

Shameless said...

Oh, how they can be so cunning! Someone told me once that cats and dogs are like human stress absorbers, which is why they are good to have around. Luckily they don't seem to mind taking on all that stress!

Minx said...

Thank you Shameless, I'm sure Owen would be delighted to know that he is an inspiration for something! I will tell him so when he decides to come out of the airing cupboard!
During the evening, my less than refined mog, is never far from my side. He has been part of my writing for the last few years, curled up on my lap as I tap away the hours. He lets me know when it's time to eat by sitting in front of the screen and refusing to budge.
Stress absorber - absolutely, and what would I do without that purr!!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for mentioning my book review on Writer Online. I enjoyed Writing With Cats and agree with Schiffhorst's theory about cats and writers.
Thanks, also, for the French lesson. Actually, I quoted the phrase exactly as Professor Schiffhorst wrote it in the book. Well, you never know!

Rachelle Nones said...

If you would like to read my entire review, surf over to this URL: http://www.writer-on-line.com/content/view/917/66/~Articles/Across-Genres/Writing-With-Cats.-An-Inspirational-and-Practical-Guide-For-Writers:-A-Review.html

Yep! It's a long URL.
Enjoy the article!

Shameless said...

Rachelle,
I feel terrible now that I pointed out those little mistakes ... and you weren't even to blame! Thanks for your comments and I will enjoy reading your article. I find this whole subject fascinating. Call again anytime. Do you have a blog of your own that I can link to?

Rachelle Nones said...

Hey Shameless:

No need to feel bad. I'm glad that someone is paying attention. I will take the hit for the English punctuation mistake. Can I claim that I was tired?
However, my French language skills have not been used since high school, so I didn't even notice the mistake in the book. Good job!

My cat Bijou (The spelling of
her name is Russian-style rather than French-style (bijoux) finds this all rather amusing. Humans! Can't live with them, can't shoot them either!

I don't have a blog, but you can read more about my writing projects
on my website:

http://www.spawn.org/mempages/rachellen/

Debi said...

A cat! That's what I'm missing ...

Do headlice have the same powers??? If so, I'm in with a chance ...

Shameless said...

The trouble is though, Debi, you can't stroke headlice and they don't contemplate ... they attack! I think a cat is the wisest bet!