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Treat Your Creativity Like a Cat

This little guy might have a lot more in common with your creativity than you think. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

When it came to writing, I tended to keep my creative impulse on a tight leash, demanding it bow to my will and follow my rules.

But like an aggressive dog with a choke collar, I only made it angry, and in response it tended to bite back. The harder I pulled on the leash to go one way, the more my creativity insisted on going the other. Which made it hard to do much writing of any sort.

But, as I’ve never been a dog person (okay, that’s a lie, I’m totally in love with my brother’s corgi, but let’s pretend I’m not for the sake of this metaphor), it slowly dawned on me that maybe I had it wrong, that by thinking of my creativity as an unruly animal in need of corralling I was making a huge mistake, one that was costing me my ability to write at all. I had mixed up my metaphors (how embarrassing for someone who makes a living off writing!), and instead of thinking of creativity as a pit bull, an enemy to be tamed, I thought I ought to start thinking of it as a different creature, something initially less threatening, but ultimately more terrifying.

That is, I started to think of it as a cat.

Now we all know cats can be sweet; they’re fluffy and soft and are irresistible when they come up to you and rub their soft, warm cat bodies up against you. Have you ever watched a movie with a cat curled up next to you on the couch? It’s the best thing since babies’ laughter. But let me ask you, how often does that happen? And is it ever your choice? Do you ever say, “come here, kitty, tonight we snuggle”? Nope. Because cats have the power in any relationship. And that’s exactly it.

What I’m saying is that both creativity and cats are a fickle things, and the moments they come to visit are often out of our control. It is up to you to recognize when creativity comes slinking through the door and do your best to make the most of its presence before it disappears again into the night in search of mice to catch, or the neighborhood tabby to pick a fight with, or whatever it is that cats get up to when we’re not around. That’s the point — it’s not our place to try and figure creativity out; we just have to roll with its punches, live according to its rules.

When your creativity cat comes to visit, don’t make any sudden moves. Approach it slowly and don’t get overly ambitious. Go get your laptop, your paints, or whatever tools you need, sit down, and see how long it lasts. And don’t beat yourself up if it gets up and leaves — if there’s one thing I know about cats it’s that they’ll always come back (mostly for food, but sometimes for a snug).

Heeeeere, kitty, kitty.