Are You a Dog Writer or a Cat Writer?
Are you a ‘dog’ writer or a ‘cat’ writer?
I hasten to add that this article is for fun only — I’m not suggesting in any way that you, a human being, are in any way seriously like either of these animals. But comparing dogs and cats might, in a light-hearted way, be able to tell us something about our own behaviour as writers.
You’ll see, if you decide to read on, that there’s a delicate balance to be struck between being a cat writer and a dog writer. I also hasten to add that I am both a ‘dog person’ and a ‘cat person’.
1. Dogs can be trained quickly, some in a matter of minutes, to obey basic commands like ‘come' and ‘sit’, whereas most cats are difficult if not impossible to train to respond to any kind of order. In terms of writers, this can be both good and bad: writers need to learn certain basic skills fast, ranging from a command of the English language to key computer and social media skills — and including a whole spectrum of skills about how to make their stories really work (as you’ll read in my book How Stories Really Work). But on the other hand you don’t want to be a Pavlovian dog as a writer — just because someone tells you to do something, or because ‘everyone else does it that way’, you shouldn’t feel automatically obliged to go along with it. So in this instance, the cat trait of being self-willed and ignoring orders has its place.
2. Cats can be housetrained in an instant as long as they have access to a litter box. There's really no training to it — it’s instinct for them. Most dogs take considerably longer to housebreak, and some just never get it fully. What does that have to do with writing?
Consider ‘spamming’ as something equivalent to not being housetrained. Dog writers try to leave a trace of themselves everywhere they go, dropping links where links are forbidden, placing ads everywhere, and generally trying to leave a trail to follow, as if that was the way to get people to buy their books. Cats, on the other hand