August 23, 2018

Can We Apply Writing Lessons to Our Life?

Silhouette of hand tossing basketball toward net with text: Do We "Try Again"? Applying Writing Lessons to Life

As I mentioned last time, my family struggled this past weekend when we had to say goodbye to our cat, Raven. The last time we lost a pet, I wasn’t ready to get another for over a year. But this time—especially with her being taken from us so young—felt different.

It’s not that we can ever replace a loved one. But we can be so used to having them around that we long to fill that empty place sooner rather than later.

As we were debating the “right” time to get a new cat, I was reminded of a lesson from the writing world. We have experienced (or will experience) many setbacks in our writing career:

  • a story that doesn’t come together as we hoped
  • a rejection from an agent or editor
  • a dead end when submitting our work for publication
  • a bad review or a tough critique
  • a loss in a contest
  • etc., etc.

When we encounter problems, the advice isn’t to give up, or wait a year before trying again. Instead, the advice is to try, try again.

Setbacks? Move Past Them

As soon as we finish licking our wounds, we’re advised to move forward:

  • get help (fixing our story, writing a better query letter, etc.)
  • start a new story or work on a different story
  • submit to a different agent or editor
  • focus on our current projects instead of worrying about an old one
  • try a different approach (write new query letter, gather more feedback on potential issues, look into self-publishing, etc.)
  • just start somewhere (start a big revision with what we know how to fix, etc.)

Depending on the depth of the setback (and our current situation), we might need only a few minutes to dig in, or we might need a week to change gears. If we struggle to get past the setback or change gears, we should probably reach out for help.

After a particularly tough critique, for example, we might bounce the feedback off our friends to see if they agree with suggested changes or if they have different insights more in line with our goals for the story. Or after we send a dozen or so queries with no nibbles, we might get help from friends or writing groups on our query letter.

“Try Again?” Sure, I Can Justify Rationalize Learn from That Lesson

It was with that “moving forward” perspective in mind that we headed to the Arizona Humane Society yesterday. *smile* (Er, yes, I’m blaming writing for this decision. Sort of. *snicker*)

With all the chaos, I didn’t have time to write up an in-depth post for today, so instead, meet the newest member of our family…

(Note: Newsletter readers, click through the post to see cute kitten pictures. *grin*)

This little kitten had just been surrendered by her mom’s family on Monday, had her spay surgery Tuesday, and moved into her shelter cage yesterday morning. By yesterday afternoon, she was home with us.

“Um, hi!”

After all those busy days, she promptly conked out. (Yes, that’s her asleep below, half-in and half-out of the carrier, just seconds after the picture above.)

“I’m just going to go explor…zzzzz”

She was so tired that she let us pass her around, from lap to lap. At 9 weeks old, she’s very tiny—2.53 pounds.

And even though just met us, she trusts us already, flaking out in every vulnerable position.

We held her for the next hour, and then we introduced her to a new favorite toy. (Every cat I’ve ever owned has loved this toy—chasing around a ball that can’t be caught. *grin*)

You’ll notice I didn’t share her name. That’s because this event was so not-planned that we haven’t decided on one yet. Oops. She’s mostly black with a fair amount of dark chocolate brown mixed in, and we want something vaguely appropriate for her coloring.

We’re currently debating between:

  • Mocha
  • Cora or Cori (short for Licorice)
  • Cleo (for Cleopatra)

Let us know if you have a favorite. Or have other suggestions. *grin*

Wish us luck in welcoming this teeny kitten to our home and family. And just remember, whenever you can’t resist taking a leap in your life, blame it on a lesson you learned from writing. *snicker*

Have you justified life decisions on lessons you learned from writing? If so, what decision did you make, and what lesson did you “blame”? Have you ever wanted to jump into being a new pet parent shortly after losing a pet? If so, what were your reasons, and how did it work out? What name do you think we should pick?

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Comments — What do you think?

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Bran Ayres

She is gorgeous and I’m so happy she found a home with you! And I love the advice, sometimes it really does help to get up and keep going once we’ve had some time to recover. Keeps us from stagnating or wallowing in frustration/regret/disappointment. Give your sweet (Licorice sounds adorable btw) kitty a pat for me, please!

Isaac Butterworth

I have some seven decades of life behind me now, most of which has been shared with dogs and cats. (Once we had three dogs and a cat at the same time!) We now have a sixteen-year-old dachshund, who is deaf and all but blind. We think he may also have some degree of dementia. I know that soon we may have to euthanize him (although I am resisting that inevitability with everything in me). We have experimented with the idea of not getting another dog or cat after this one, but that would really seem strange. Still in all, I have wondered whether I can keep watching pets I love die in my arms. Writing exposes the heart, both its resistance (no more pain, please) and its resilience (but love is worth the pain), and both modes reside within me. But writing has taught me that healthy choices often bring pain, so I’m thinking I will love again. Thanks for your posts and your advice on craft. You make a big difference.


Jami, your cats are beautiful! Since I am here, thank you for the wonderful information you have on your website for writers. I am a new writer (aspiring) and have been for a number of years but I keep on reading and now after all this time, I am going write in NaNoWriMo in November to give it a go again. The worksheets are great!

Elizabeth Randolph

I laughed. Yes, blame a writing lesson. I like your kitty. Look at her expression. Such self-possession. Looks like she must have been loved to be willing to be held by everyone. You made a good choice. Cori seems a nice name. Maybe she is regal enough for Cleo. You might try calling out various names (one at a time) and see if her ears prick up. I had a few cats that never responded to their names. I tried new ones. Suddenly, they responded. Makes me wonder about the mysteries cats keep to themselves. I had a tiger stripe with a pretty name. Never came to me. Finally, I called her Tiger (Yeah, I know, how prosaic.). She ran right up to me. Name from a previous life? Surely, only in fiction. (She still only responds to Tiger.)

Deborah Makarios

What a bundle of personality! Look at that “hello, peasant” expression! Trivia of the day: Cleopatra was of (massively inbred) Macedonian Greek ancestry, despite ruling part of Africa, so the name may not be “vaguely appropriate for her colouring” – though possibly quite appropriate for her attitude!

Last week I came up with a plan to finish my current WIP first draft by the end of September, in order to be able to do NaNoWriMo (for the first time!) this year.
This week, I got a tummy bug, along with a light flu/heavy cold. I am very tempted to curl up in a chair by the fire with a large stack of classic mysteries and never stir again till Spring, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned from writing (and reading) stories, it’s that perseverance is crucial to the success of your quest. (Also that wandering off the path may result in being eaten by bears/wolves/freakishly huge spiders.)

So far I’m hanging in there. Self-medicating with kittens? Sadly, no. Not saying I’m not tempted, but we already have two cats, and they both seem to think that’s one too many.

Clare O'Beara
Clare O'Beara

Lovely kitten! I am amazed that she was spayed so young as this is a major op. In Ireland they are not spayed / neutered until six months minimum and when you collect a young cat from the cats’ and dogs’ home, you pay for her and return for the op free later.
The best way to keep cats is to have more than one at a time as they are company for each other; this also has the advantage that if one dies the house is not empty.

Wishing you years of happy company.

Melanie Ormand

My mother named every one of her cats Precious.

We buried her last Precious last October. 4-1/2 years after we buried our own mother.

Bittersweet. As is the name.

Connie Terpack
Connie Terpack

Cori suits her. I also like Mocha, but I’ve always thought of that as a dark brown and she looks black in the photos.


Hmm I like Licorice best, without any abbreviations, haha.

One life lesson from my writing, is to not immediately judge people for their actions, as they may have a sympathetic backstory, or you may have made some false assumptions about their motives. It could be a case of someone seeking a solution for their problem, but making the wrong choices that harm others around them. They made foolish decisions, but that was out of folly, not malice. This may sound like a lesson from reading rather than from writing, but writing about such characters in my stories does deepen this lesson!

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