Warning: this post is really just an excuse to put up gorgeous pictures of cute, fluffy animals.... er, Writing Companions (disclaimer: none of these cute, fluffy Writing Companions are actually my own cute, fluffy Writing Companions...).
Every day on facebook and instagram, and doubtless on other social media, we see cute pictures of the various furry friends that share our lives. As writers (as creators, in fact) many of us seem to have companions from this furry friends group that are very much a part of our process, or, at least, our creative days. Some of us have dogs or cats, others have birds of various descriptions, one or two have horses, and there are others, too.
I'm not sure that the dog is entirely happy with this state of affairs.... I know when I had both a cat and a dog, the dog was usually on the defensive...
I suspect this is wishful thinking on my part...
And why not? I used to have ducks. Great conversationalists...
For me, my creative companions have been a number of very precious fur babies who have been part of our family over the years, from a couple of dogs who shouldered the blame for my strange tendency to walk around chatting with invisible characters (I was just taking to the dog, what did you think?) to my amazing Max, aka the Evil Ruler of the Universe, a very much loved black Burmese who hung around with us for 23 years before taking his final journey across the dimensions to the Netherworld. He was the sort of cat you saw turning up in photos from all over the world. I swear he could cross dimensions and be in all sorts of other places at the same time. I hope he is now settled down well in a beautiful otherworldly garden with lots of sunshine to lie around in. He loved his sunshine.
There were not going to be any more. I couldn’t take the pain of those last farewells.
...earlier this year we found ourselves at the RSPCA looking for our new fur baby. She was to be a companion for our Resident Teen, who, if it is in any way at all possible, misses Max even more than do I.
It was supposed to be a ‘research’ visit.
Chosen we were, however, by a beautiful little calico, 12 months old and already a mumma cat. She had just come back to the Shelter from the foster home that had cared for her and her wee kittens. I mean, just come back.
So, after a final all clear from the vet, we brought home this small, nervous, and entirely beautiful young animal.
She has claimed us all.
And she is no longer small or nervous. She is now a big, fluffy, boss of a cat who has us all wrapped around her little finger, er, claw. But, oh, my gosh, she has love to give in plenty, and she is a much calmer incarnation of feline than the last (who, if upset, was not beyond lashing out with a perfectly timed claw). This one does not wish to travel between dimensions so much as between laps. And she purrs. And purrs. And purrs.
So how is she my creative companion, you ask?
Okay... so one, she makes sure that I am up in time for my morning session by, well, basically sitting on my head, purring, until I move. Bear in mind that I am a morning person by preference, anyway, so this is not as much of an imposition as it might be otherwise. I prefer it to the way the dogs used to come and lick my face. Max used to just swipe my feet until I gave in.
Two, she makes sure that my work environment is comfortable. For example, she will sit and stare at me contemptuously until I light the fire (or put the column heater on).
Have you ever been subject to this kind of determined attention?
Three, if she feels that I have been focusing for too long on something, say, my writing wip, some art, or my phone, she will come and sit on it and demand I take a break, which will probably involve, yes, feeding the cat. This, believe it or not, is more reliable than setting a timer, because I am very good at ignoring a timer if I am in the middle of something. There is no ignoring a cat sitting on your keyboard. I can try shoving her sideways. She will just come straight back, and quite possibly add some interesting comments onto the ms. All the while purring adorably. Dear thing, she is looking after my health and wellbeing.
Also, she is a great listener. Can you picture the scene? She sits, paws tucked neatly under her large, fluffy body, eyes partially closed, listening attentively as I read out my latest chapter. She appreciates lots of expression, but is not a fan of waiting while I make changes.
Admittedly, she is also not so good at providing critical feedback. She mostly tells me it is all fabulous, but will listen equally attentively to a reworked scene, which she will declare to be equally fabulous. By purring. The only thing that would make it better would be to add in a cat. I suppose that is critical feedback. So, yeah...
...okay, more than that, she is ever happy to assist with research, and will sit happily on my lap for ages (preferably in front of the fire) while I read, making sure I focus appropriately on all that learning I’m absorbing from the current book. Until it is time to stop focusing, when she will stretch out a lovely, soft paw and peacefully knock the book out of my hands. Until I feed her.
She will snuggle in and help me feel comfy and warm in bed, assuring good sleep over tossing and turning. Tossing and turning is not to be tolerated. So she is very good for assisting with solid sleep (who knew that it could be enforced by a caring cat companion?). Again, my health and wellbeing guru.
A good night's sleep is so important to the creative process...
And of course, she is there for me to huggle when things don’t seem to be going right... when my ms just won’t behave, or a character has done something (or had something done to them) that leaves me in tears. She is so soft, and fluffy, and huggable, and she purrs like a Jaguar (the car that purrs like a cat, not the South American big cat of the same name, although I dare say they purr, too). And if I get too... emotional... she will just reach out her soft white paw, rest it gently on my lips and say, ‘Shhh, there, there’. True. It just sounds like ‘Prrrrr’.
Most of all, she just keeps me company during that most solitary of pursuits.
And that, I think, is the crux of it. To know that we are not alone, even when what we crave is to be tucked away in our various little cubbies, left in peace to write (or make art).
Unconditional love... er, companionship.
Apart from the feeding bit. And the fire.
Assiduously engaging in his job as Writer Companion...