Unlikely Teachers

Writing Lessons From My Cat

Marble. How cute is he!?

It’s no secret that I’m a cat lover, so I was thrilled when Craig W. Steele came to me with a post about his cat, Marble. Even though there has already been a cat post in the series, I just couldn’t resist. Without further adieu, I give you Craig and Marble! 


The feline approach to dispensing lessons about writing is unique. My cat, Marble, is a black-and-white shorthair who takes his role of mentor to this writer quite seriously.


Those flowers are mine!

Cat:  Several years ago, my wife, Kitty (how’s that for irony?), asked me to stop buying her flowers. Not that she dislikes flowers – just the opposite is true. However, we quickly learned that the kitchen table and countertops were no obstacles to Marble’s leaping ability while in pursuit of fresh flowers; true also of the fireplace mantel. We thought we’d won when we placed the next vase of flowers atop the refrigerator. But we hadn’t reckoned with his cleverness in using the adjacent kitchen work desk as a halfway platform in his quest for the top of the ‘fridge – albeit not without experiencing several very un-catlike, whole-body introductions to the kitchen floor. Eventually he perfected his technique and was soon happily munching the flowers.

Lesson: Perseverance pays off. No matter how great the obstacle, Marble continued improving his ability at leaping. No matter how many times he smacked the floor, he’d stagger to his paws and try again. How can I be dismayed by a plot line temporarily stuck in neutral or a little thing like another rejection when I have his “cattitude” as inspiration to continue leaping toward my goals?


Happiness is a clean litter box.

Cat:  Marble loves his litter box. He spends considerable time each day filling it with personal treasures and artfully burying and rearranging all the crusty globs and spongy cakes. And after it’s cleaned out, he happily begins the task anew.

Lesson: Don’t be intimidated by a blank screen or an empty sheet of paper. Treat either one as a clean litter box just waiting to be filled with treasure, artfully buried or rearranged as necessary. And take joy in your opportunity to do so.


No amount of whining gets me out of the basement until the door is opened.

Cat:  Marble spends the night in the basement, for the preservation of the house and our sleep. I’m first up in the mornings, usually an hour or more ahead of Kitty and the kids. Marble begins whining to be let out as soon as I step into the kitchen. Although he’s never been to school, he reproduces the fingernails-on-the-chalkboard screech perfectly. But he has to wait, because if I open the basement door, I know he’ll shoot straight upstairs, park himself outside one of the kids’ bedroom doors and start whining to be let in.

Lesson: Whining doesn’t overcome writer’s block. When I’m trapped in that basement, which often resembles a medieval dungeon, no amount of complaining, grousing, ranting or venting gets me out until the door opens. I used to just wait until my muse opened the door for me. But after listening to Marble, I’ve learned to take positive steps, detailed in many “how-to” books and articles, to turn the knob and open the basement door myself – after all, what’s the use in having opposable thumbs if I don’t use them?


What has your cat taught you?


Craig W. Steele is a writer and university biologist whose creative musings occur in the urban countryside of northwestern Pennsylvania where he writes for both children and adults. His poetry has appeared recently or is forthcoming in Stories for Children Magazine, Spaceports & Spidersilk, the Aurorean, Astropoetica, Stone Path Review, Popular Astronomy, The Lyric and elsewhere. He also has a new short story up at Stone Path Review.


2 thoughts on “Writing Lessons From My Cat

  1. Great post, Craig. “what’s the use in having opposable thumbs if I don’t use them?” Ahhhh, if I had a nickel for every time I’ve thought this — okay, well not exactly. But the philosophy behind it, yes. Thanks for the inspiration this morning. I’m going to take those positive steps today =D

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