Herding Cats ~ by Maressa Mortimer

Believe it or not, but today is Cat Herders Day. It seems to be an international day, according to the National Day Calendar. Taking my kids for a walk often made me exclaim, “It’s like herding cats!” Who knew there was an international day to celebrate this kind of endurance sport?

Tomorrow it’s ‘National Chocolate-covered Anything Day. Maybe to make up for the cat herding? Many things in life can feel like herding cats. Trying to get your characters to behave. Getting enough research done so you can figure out whether the unfortunate events befalling your characters will allow them to make it into the next novel, or whether you have just lost your main antagonist and need to start looking for another villain.

Then there is the editing. Trying to herd commas into the right place. Grammarly and I disagree somewhat, so now I’m relying on my editor to decide who’s won the comma herding. Herding ideas onto paper in itself can be like herding cats, as tiredness can make thoughts disappear and imposter syndrome seems to have nine lives, always landing on its feet.

So why herd cats anyway? Because it’s rewarding. Maybe not the herding, but afterwards, when you’re all inside again, sitting in front of the fire with slippers, a book and coffee, cats purring away. Maybe it stops cats from straying too far by themselves? Maybe the effort is somehow bonding? Then there is that sense of achievement, having herded cats on a lovely country walk till we’re all tired and glowing.

That wide-eyed look you get from seeing the editor's comments and recommendations

I’m sure the same is true for herding words. There is always chocolate to reward ourselves the next day, but there is something incredible about holding a finished manuscript. Or at least the first draft, before your editor covers it in red pen. Even then, however hard it is to chase the red comments, spot the crossed off exclamation marks and generally herding your draft towards becoming more of a book than ever, there is something to make you glow. A warmth and job satisfaction, whilst muttering, “It’s like herding cats!”

Cat Herding Day sounds like the perfect day to look at your writing style. How and where do you write? Have you got enough brand new notebooks to make herding ideas onto paper easier? Of course, one can never have enough notebooks, but still... How about strategically placed chocolates, so on your way to the printer to pick up some printed–off character sheets, you can add towards your five-a-day, as chocolate is made of beans, right? Just like the National Day Calendar, make sure to build in breaks and special moments to relax, recover and celebrate your moments of success, whether it’s persuading a relative to get you a new pen, finding the perfect place for that comma or the fact your editor left an exclamation mark in.

So there it is, Cat Herding Day. It’s the perfect day for writing as well as editing, formatting or even plotting your story. Don’t worry if it feels stressful, if words evade you at every turn and typos have more than nine lives, for tomorrow it’s National Chocolate-covered Anything Day.

 Maressa Mortimer is Dutch but lives in the beautiful Cotswolds, England with her husband and four (adopted) children. Maressa is a homeschool mum as well as a pastor’s wife, so her writing has to be done in the evening when peace and quiet descend on the house once more. She loves writing Christian fiction, as it’s a great way to explore faith in daily life. Because of her interest in writing, Maressa is part of Creativity Matters: Find Your Passion For Writing, an anthology encouraging people to write.

Her debut novel, Sapphire Beach, was published in December 2019, and her first self published novel, Walled City, came out in December 2020, followed by Viking Ferry, a novella. Beyond the Hills is the second book in the Elabi Chronicles, and was released on June 18th 2021. All of Maressa’s books are available from her website, www.vicarioushome.com, Amazon or local bookshops.


Umberto Tosi said…
You're so right. It does feel like herding cats - or what I imagine herding cats would be like, never having tried to get a cat to do anything successfully. At least I've managed to herd words passably over the years. But every cat is different as is every herd. Thanks for your fun post.
Joy Margetts said…
Ah yes... herding commas. That resonates. And yes, I'm in the editing process at the moment and there are times when rewriting just one paragraph feels like herding cats. Takes far too long and I wonder if it will be worth it!
Thanks, Umberto and Joy, and it will definitely be worth it, Joy! I'm so looking forward to book 2...!
Ruth Leigh said…
Now that was lots of fun! I like your idea of a trail of chocolates to the printer.
Wendy H. Jones said…
What a fabulous post. I love the analogy. Nice one.
Loved it - lighthearted fun... thank you!
Reb MacRath said…
Yes, word-herding days...with strategically placed chocolates! Well done.

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