Monday, August 8, 2011

The Cat Knows

Every writer I've ever met (whether in life or online) has their own 'go-to' books when they look for answers to tricky situations. I have them as well, but I have learned to never underestimate the intelligence of a certain familiar feline.

He's the grinning cat who appears and disappears at will. He can have different parts of his body stay visible and he is excellent at answering questions if you can decipher his code. I've decided that some of his wisdom can be applied to writing.

Quote #1:
[Alice asked]"Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?" "That depends a good deal on where you want to get to," said the Cat. "I don't much care where--" said Alice. "Then it doesn't matter which way you go," said the Cat.

Here is every writers' dilemma whenever they begin a new project. Which way ought I to go? I take the cat's words to heart; I decide where I want to get to. I will know the solution to my plots long before I ever start the actual tapping on my keyboard. I will know all the major points of my myriad of plots and will outline them all from beginning to end. Certainly, things will change in the actual writing, but I know where I'm heading. If you work without an outline, you'll never know where you'll end up. If this sort of adventure appeals to you, then you will take strength from the last part of the quotation; as it truly won't matter which way you go.

Quote #2
"--so long as I get SOMEWHERE," Alice added as an explanation. "Oh, you're sure to do that," said the Cat, "if you only walk long enough."

The writing lesson found in this quotation is that, as writers, we must have patience. If you have a destination in mind you will eventually reach it. The rather nasty part is that there seems to be no definition of how long constitutes 'long enough'. Some writers can finish their journey in a few weeks. Some take months or years. Everyone has their own 'long enough'. Accept it.

Quote #3
"But I don't want to go among mad people," Alice remarked. "Oh, you can't help that," said the Cat: "we're all mad here. I'm mad. You're mad." "How do you know I'm mad?" said Alice. "You must be," said the Cat, "or you wouldn't have come here."

I don't think that writers are mad, but let's be honest, we are a little strange. We spend large amounts of time alone. We have very active imaginations that enable us to invent entire worlds and we will happily spend hours there. Most of us are not the most social of creatures and although we have a strong voice when we write we often find ourselves suffering from laryngitis in the 'real world'. But you're here aren't you? Whether by accident or by determination, you're a writer. Accept and embrace the madness which always comes with creativity.

The Cheshire Cat is a wise and wonderful creature. I hope these few words may help you negotiate your way through your own Wonderland.


  1. Elspeth - Words of wisdom indeed! I admit; I'm like you in that I like to work with an outline when I'm writing. I find it keeps me better focused. So I like what the cat has to say about it all depending on where one wants to get. But I think my favourite really is that one about mad people. If we weren't a little - erm, I prefer to think of it as unique - we wouldn't be able to create the way we do...

  2. Insightful post. I'm working on my outline right now, something that does not come naturally, but I'm tired of getting lost in the woods and winding up nowhere because I didn't plan ahead. And I guess I prefer odd or different to mad, although I allow that we are not like other people...

  3. I love this. I'm outlining now and finding it's much easier to craft characters than plot. I keep thinking if I work with them long enough I'll figure out how they all come together. Like Kit, this doesn't come naturally but I got totally lost on my last manuscript and don't plan on that happening again. Writers are different. I think it's wonderful!

  4. Margot; I don't know how those pantsers do it! How I admire them.

    Kit; I think all creative people march to slightly eccentric drummer; not that there's anything wrong with that!

    Carol; Everyone finds what works for them, but for me, outlining gives me much-needed structure.

  5. I love this. That's a very smart cat :)

  6. Sarah; I adore the Cheshire Cat. I actually have a wooden cut-out of him in my laundry room.

    Terry; Thanks for letting me know!

  7. Oh, this was great! I love the Cheshire Cat and have been known to just say "Oh, we're all mad here!" randomly. I had never thought of this brilliance in terms of writing before though... so thank you!

  8. This was brilliant! I never realized how clever the Cheshire Cat was, LOL!

  9. Hart; You're welcome! Perhaps the Cheshire Cat is really Professor McGonagall in her animal form.

    Lady Gwen; Purrr.

  10. This is all so true and good! A year ago last May, I embroidered an Alice quote on a jacket for my step-dot's birthday - it was from the movie and not the book - however - it is in the spirit of!
    Here's the quote "But this is my dream. I'll decide where it goes from here." Alice to the Mad Hatter...

  11. Jan; What an excellent line and what a lovely thing for you to do! You're crafty AND you have chickens - you're my hero.

  12. Very clever post.
    My outline isn't the way I learned in school but it works for me and it is a must have.
    I have to know where I'm going long before I think of starting. How I get there sometimes remains a mystery.

  13. I´m most definitely here, and I love it ;D

  14. Mary; You've pointed out yet another reason why I chose the blog name I did!

    Dorte; I'm most definitely glad you're here! And I'm still perusing Yorkshire village names. They're FANTASTIC.

  15. Excellent! I can appreciate his wisdom as you do.


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