Welcome to the series, “Unlikely Teachers.” This series will include posts by me, as well as guests, about things we have learned about the craft of writing or illustrating from unlikely places, people or things. If you are interested in being a guest blogger for this series, please feel free the drop me a line here.
To kick off the series, lessons from my cat, Perry.
1.“Unless you give me my tummy rub, I will not go away.”
Cat: Nothing will satisfy Perry when he wants a tummy rub, except for, you guessed it, a tummy rub. He will stalk your every move, meow at you and swarm around your feet until you give in. You can give him food or try to distract him with a toy, but he’s on a mission and won’t settle for less. He wants that tummy rub.
Lesson: Don’t settle for less. This can be applied to many things related to the writing and illustrating.
Don’t settle on your first metaphor or simile, often those are old and tired. Stretch your imagination to think of a fresh and exciting one.
Don’t settle for things that don’t seem right. Don’t expect a six figure contract, but if something doesn’t sit right with you, find someone to clarify and don’t be afraid to speak up.
Don’t settle for less from yourself. It’s easy to get excited and send off work before it’s 100% the best it can be, but you owe it to yourself to take the time to make sure it sparkles.
2.“I will groom my fur until it shines.”
Cat: Perry, like most cats, is adamant about cleaning himself. He will groom himself until every single piece of fur is in place and it shines. Time consuming? Unbelievably. Lucky me, this also means the occasional hairball spit up on the carpet. (Which, ironically, he just did as I wrote that sentence. *sigh* )
Lesson: This is a good way to approach revision. It’s a lot of hard work and it’s often time consuming, but in the end, it will be worth it. I’m sure you will encounter your own hairballs along the way, but a great finished product can yield a reward or even many. Groom your manuscript or art until everything is in place and it shines.
3. “That piece of popcorn under the couch is mine, no matter how long it takes.”
Cat: In my house, there are a lot of popcorn eaters and often a piece or two will find its way under the couch. Once Perry sees a piece, he will not stop until he reaches it.
Lesson: Don’t give up. If that piece of popcorn under the couch is your dream of publication, keep reaching for it. Sure, you will inevitably pull out a few pieces of lint and dirt along the way (rejections), but it will be worth it. Your hard work and dedication will make that piece of popcorn taste even better.
What has your cat taught you?