"That’s the great secret of creativity. You treat ideas like cats: you make them follow you.” Ray Bradbury
I've never been able to get Betsy to follow me. I think she just doesn't see any sense to that, unless there is food involved.
However I know that when I'm working in the garden, she does follow me around, without me having to ask. I'll stop to cut or dig something, and she will sit, and watch, or lie down to enjoy the sunshine. Of course I think cats quite like seeing us work, expending energy, to make their environment a bit nicer for them.
Or more convenient.
The nice, loosely turned soil around my newly planted flowers makes a perfect location for her to perform her toilette.
But I think it is true, cats do follow us about because they like company, they know who the Alpha Cat is and want to follow the leader, keep tabs on the one that feeds and nurtures.
Are ideas like that too? Do they cling to us, seeking expression, acknowledgement, nourishment, recognition?
Ideas do come to us without invitation. We don't always have to ask. The thing is, you have to be open to them, allow them in, make that process a habit, a creative practice.
Well it's Friday and the end of the week, time to relax by the fire, contemplate the week that was, and ponder one's weekend activities.
Betsy likes nothing more than hunkering down by the woodburner on a Friday evening - well, any evening really - to watch the flames and luxuriate in the heat.
She enjoys it so much that the staff must bring her dinner to the fireside, so she may eat in comfort - no way she's going to venture into the cold kitchen, over the freezing floor tiles, to eat in her usual spot.
Actually Betsy is pondering her next book - she writes in the new 'up lit' genre and her novels are riding the wave.
An article in the Guardian defines 'up lit' as "novels and nonfiction that is optimistic rather than feelgood. And an appetite for everyday heroism, human connection and love – rather than romance – is expected to be keeping booksellers and publishers uplifted, too."
This, they say, is a response to the 'grip lit' thriller genre that has bombarded and led the market for years. It's time for some 'good news' stories when there is so much uncertainty and fear in today's world.
So Betsy is one very market-savvy cat. I think she writes about her horrible experiences whilst living under the tyranny of Little Boy, who has since died, and turns them into positive stories that uplift and inspire. She is making something good out of bad.
The fire is lit-up so Betsy can do her up-lit thing. I have my instructions: 'keep the fire going, the warmth coming, bring the food, then go away and leave me to gather inspiration.'
'Authors like cats because they are such quiet, lovable, wise creatures, and cats like authors for the same reasons.’
– Robertson Davies
My cat Betsy is 17 this month.
She came from the pet store up the road as a kitten, one of many tabby cats in a large cage in the window.
For a long time she was an 'only cat' and had the run of the place. Then a black male stray, Little Boy, came on the scene. Before I could control him, he had defiled all of Betsy's favourite places with his malodorous male-ness, spraying high and low. Even after being 'fixed' Little Boy retained his evil habits, dousing and beating Betsy into submission. Her new home became the roof of my house, and in wet weather, the garden shed. Despite my pleadings and actually carrying her fighting and scratching into the house, she would not stay, preferring to remain aloof , alienated and indignant in her lofty perch.
Little Boy passed away a couple of years ago and now Betsy has reclaimed her rightful place. In her twilight years I give her as much love and care as I can, because she deserves it. She has good food, warm places to sleep (inside) in as many locations as she desires, she is brushed daily, and in winter time has a delightful fire every night to sleep beside.
Most days when I am writing she spends some time sitting on my printer, being close, as if to say, 'You are mine. I will not share you. I tolerate your writing because that is how you earn money to pay for my food and comforts.'
Ah but I think it goes beyond that. She is my companion, my friend. We chat throughout the day and in the evening we settle down with our glass of whiskey and talk about the day. She tells me about the lemons ripening on the tree and I share my stories with her.