In addition to being a writer, I am an animal lover, owning a trio of cats and one gigantic, overzealous rescue dog. For a time, I looked at my pets largely as impediments to my creativity, as they seemed to need something the moment I approached my writing spot. Suddenly, the dog would realize his intense desire to be walked at that very second, or the cats would try and create a feline pyramid on my lap, all craving a scratch behind the ear. Aggravated, and as if they could understand, I would express my displeasure:
When googling Mark Twain, another obvious subject, the very first thing that came up: Mark Twain Liked Cats Better Than People. Other articles discussed Twain’s love of felines and how this love would find its way into his prose, the most famous cat cameo occurring in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. It was easy to draw the conclusion then, that Twain drew inspiration from his felines. As I continued to research writers having one or multiple cats that helped rather than hindered their writing, the list became lengthy, Charles Dickens, Jack Kerouac, Stephen King…but what of dogs? After all, I lovingly own both species.
It was clear that I had been viewing my pets through the wrong lens when it came to my writing. In her article entitled “How Pets Impact Your Creativity,” author Caitlyn Crossley cites the fact that our pets illicit from us a childlike sense of joy and freedom, while simultaneously lowering our anxiety. What better prescription could there be for the often emotionally-addled writer? For example, as I write this current essay, my tabby cat, Luna, is basking in a sunbeam at my feet. Though not confronted with writer’s block, or its corresponding anxiety at the moment, I find her presence comforting; it feels as though she is a silent cheerleader for my prose.
If, however, one is a writer without pets, can one still benefit from their blood-pressure-lowering, loneliness-squashing and creativity-expanding affects? Maybe. There are websites dedicated to those that would just like to look at pictures of animals and nothing more. For instance, photographer Jill Krement's website featuring candid photos of writers and their dogs may help some garner inspiration. Or, if one prefers cats, it may pay to visit Pinterest's writers and kitties page, which provides pictures of, well, just that.
I won’t pretend that every day with my indoor menagerie will benefit my writing. There will still be times when the dog chases the cats, then the cats chase the dog in retaliation, and things get knocked over just as I am about to craft the sentence of a lifetime. But more often, I plan to tap into their comforting well of reassurance, and see if my prose responds. I now firmly believe that my pets ground my writing process. As George Eliot once said, “Animals are such agreeable friends—they ask no questions, they pass no criticisms.” And thank goodness they don’t. We do enough of that ourselves.