Did Adopting Cats Improve My Writing?
August 18, 2020 by Mason Bell

My enthusiasm for the craft of writing waned. My prose became stagnant and the motivation to write turned into binge-watching K-Dramas, where every moment of life was bright and pure and fun, far from the hair-pulling trials of revision.

But then I progressed to the next logical step in a writer’s life, I adopted cats. POOF! I morphed into a brilliant writer as they laid paws on me, granting the Grand Skills of proper grammar and story immersion.

Okay, so none of that was true, at least not entirely, I do love a good K-Drama, and I got cats.

In my personal life, I had just sent my last child off to the grassy hills of higher education and time became my friend. Hours of my life passed as I learned the skill of writing from Brandon Sanderson via YouTube. I read books on plot and character emotion/motivations. My brain became a sponge, and I learned that outstanding books don’t just happen, they are earned.

Then we adopted the cats. Frodo and Fat Hobbit, siblings from foster care, strutted into our house and staked their claim. My eight-hour shifts of learning turned into two or three as the petting and feeding of cats interfered with my morning routine of killing my darling characters.

Before we fall into the rabbit hole of vet appointments and litter boxes, the question remains. Did adopting cats improve my writing?

Without doubt, but not because the darling creatures harness the mystical powers of good storytelling.

Time turned against me and smart decisions about my learning had to be made. I narrowed my focus to the teachings that would improve my writing, all while keeping my eye on publishing in 2020. I tweaked my pantsing style to include a bullet point outline to make my writing sessions do more with less.

But the feline additions to our family were mysterious. Where did they go during the day? How did Frodo catch so many bugs? Do animals really have personalities? These ideas were important because of the anthropomorphized raccoons, cats, and elephants that roamed the pages of my books demanded an answer. The more I played with the cats and watch them do weird cat stuff, like dash up trees for the heck of it, my ability to describe animal movements and behaviors improved. My characters went from flat to fabulous.

But I can’t leave out the most important part of living with cats. They taught me that everything in my story’s environment is at play.

The first few days together, the dynamic duo canvased the house, searching out secluded hiding spaces just in case a dog popped onto the scene. Nothing went un-sniffed. Couches, rugs, the railings on the stairs were new and exciting. Everything was everything to them. This led me back to world-building. What would my main character notice if dropped into an unfamiliar world? Would she shrug her shoulders and say meh?

Since adopting the cats almost six months ago, they have chilled out quite a bit. We have an understanding that I write in the morning and they cruise the neighborhood. They’re happy, I’m happy. And the release of my first book became doable, once again.

If I had a chance for a do-over, would I leave Frodo and Fat Hobbit in the pet store, a treasure for another family?

Heck no. They improve my life and I improve theirs. I’d call that a win-win situation.