Friday, June 26, 2020

How Writing is Like Raising Kittens

On June 6th, life threw another little kink into my plans.

Three kinks, to be exact.
Day 1. They would not be still.

I’d spent the night at my mother’s house on Friday night (she’s been sick), then did a bit of cleaning on Saturday morning. My husband called about noon to ask what my mom’s kittens looked. Someone found a kitten on our driveway and he thought one of the kittens from my mom’s had somehow gotten in my car and jumped out on our driveway. But the kitten wasn’t gray, and all of mom’s were accounted for. So, I didn’t think anything else about it.

Two hours later, I headed home. It was really, really hot and I had my windows down, something I rarely do, but I’d been cleaning so was already hot and sweaty. As I turned down my long driveway, I heard meowing. Kittens? Really?

I stopped and got out to find three little balls of fur huddled under an old metal sideboard leaning against the fence. Well, one of them (I called him Wildman, but was overruled by the granddaughter later) wasn’t huddled. He (or she… still not sure), was barreling toward the driveway at full-speed, determined to find food for them all. There were two calicos and an orange tabby, and they were cute as could be, but SO hungry.

I’m pretty sure I’ve seen the mama, a calico, roaming around our hay barn, but it was obvious something had happened to her. The kittens had been taken care of up until that point, but they weren’t going to survive much longer without milk. I took them home and turns out there were FOUR in all. The neighbor had taken one calico home with him, and the next day another neighbor came and got a second one, leaving me with two to raise.
Mimi & Cha-Cha

I estimated them to be 3-4 weeks old, but now I’ve downgraded that to more like 2-3 weeks from when I found them.

So, what does this have to do with writing?

I could write this from what I’ve learned during the last three weeks or what the kittens have learned and how it relates to our writing journey… or I could do it from both perspectives. Let’s see how that goes. I mean, it’s always good to hear both sides, yes?
Cha-Cha (It's possible Cha-Cha is a boy.... hmmm)

1) Clawing Our Way Up. When I found these kittens, they were starving for milk. They were loud and clawing their way up me, trying to suckle my chin. I didn’t have any pet-ag bottles, so used a dropper to get a bit of milk and rice water (I was desperate) in their stomachs. It didn’t help much. They were still screaming. I was a basket case and my husband was worse. He said they were not staying in the house. I searched the internet and found a recipe to make kitten formula and made two trips to town to get (human) baby bottles and the ingredients for a diy kitten formula. Since it was the weekend (isn’t it always?), I didn’t think I’d find any pet stores or veterinarians open that might have bottles small enough for their little mouths. For 48 hours, I donned the same milk-covered clothes and fed all three kittens with a baby bottle, then cleaned them up (use your imagination) and repeated the process every 3-4 hours.

Now, isn’t that the way we were when we first started on this writing journey? We were desperate to learn the craft. We sometimes clawed our way up the ladder of learning one rung at a time, trying to find what worked for us, what would help us grow and learn and satisfy us, right?
The Best-Ever Kitten Sitter (and Namer)

And along comes someone or something that helped us along that journey, giving us a bottle, yes? For me, the Seekers played a big part in that. ACFW has, too. Early on, before ACFW, RWA was a part of my learning curve. Contest, editors, and agents’ feedback all helped me to grow as a writer.

2) Figuring out the BOTTLE. Oh Lord, this was a challenge for my two kittens. I ended up with a calico and an orange tabby. After naming and discarding names for about a week, my four-year-old granddaughter finally dubbed them Mimi and Cha-Cha. Those names seem to have stuck. For now. Mimi, the Calico, is a dainty little eater. She still isn’t much interested in the kitten kibble (wet or dry), but can suck a bottle down in two minutes flat! Cha-Cha, on the other hand, FIGHTS the bottle like a wildcat, mostly because he (I really think Cha-Cha is a boy), isn’t getting it fast enough. If he’d just quit fighting and suck like Mimi, he’d have better luck. OTOH, he already knows where the dry kibble is and eats it at will. She isn’t the least bit interested in the dry kibble.
2nd Best Kitten Sitter

Who can relate? Oh, there’s so much to talk about here!! :) Mimi would be the plotter, I think. She’d carefully figure out the easiest path from A-Z and methodically set out to accomplish her goal. In her case, it’s lay back in my arms and slurp down a bottle. For Cha-Cha, it’s like… pounce on the bottle, scratch and claw Pammy to death and see what sticks. Find the dry kibble and chomp, chomp, chomp with his face buried in it. But for the record, they’re both growing. They both weigh about the same. Neither system is any better than the other. Be ye plotter or panster… you’ll get there in the end.

3) Litter box. I’m not sure how to relate the litter box to writing. Maybe I should just leave this one blank and let you draw your own conclusions. Ha! Maybe there’s a lot of stinky stuff that goes with writing, but if you get the right kind of litter, it’s not so bad, really. :) 

Mimi and Cha-Cha have done amazingly well with the litter box. As someone who’s never had an indoor cat, I’m quite proud of myself for THEIR accomplishment.
Cha-Cha in a Milk Coma

4) Growing too big for their britches. As Mimi and Cha-Cha have grown, they’ve also become more aggressive. I have plenty of scratch marks where they’ve fought for the bottle. I use a towel to wrap them up while feeding, and can only feed one at a time. Occasionally, I’ve managed both, but it’s easier to just do one. (Hmmm, some of you have written more than one manuscript at once, yes?) My granddaughter SO wanted to give them their bottle, but she realized right quick that they were way too aggressive. Instead, she entertains one while I feed the other one. If they just realized that I have the bottle right there. It’s full of warm milk, and it’s not going anywhere.

Of all the things I’ve said here… very loosely comparing raising these kittens to a writing journey, this point might be the most far-fetched, but possibly the deepest, most serious thing to ponder this weekend. We.Depend.On.Each.Other. We all learn from others. We glean from those who’ve gone before. And, if we’re a little further along the path, we can hold out a hand to those coming up behind us. So, when I feel myself belittling any group, individual, publisher or agency because I don’t think they’re doing anything for “me”, I need to sit back and realize that somewhere along the way, they have helped me. Who am I to turn up my nose and walk away like a disdainful cat?
Meeting Dakota

I just got a visual of myself wrestling with my WIP. Can I get an amen on that, too???

5) Sassy. On the heels of all this wrestling and fighting with the bottle, they’re getting bolder and more sassy. They’re climbing and playing and becoming more confident. They’re tumbling off of couches and exploring outside. Broadening their horizons. There are pitfalls, of course. The big, bad dog is outside. We don’t know how she’s going to react to them long-term. So far, so good, but what about when my back is turned? The kittens don’t know to be wary, but I do…

Yep, we have to venture out. We have to write our masterpieces and send them out into the world. We have to be bold. Be brave. Realize that it’s a big world out there and we’re more than up to the task of conquering it. And when we take a tumble, we have to get right back up and have another go at it.

6) Independence. Someday (soon), these kittens will be independent of me. I never planned on having indoor cats, and right at this moment, I still don’t plan to. If they become bosom buddies with our outside dog, they’ll be outside cats, but for now, they’re inside. Once they’re grown, they’ll turn into aloof felines that will hardly acknowledge my existence anyway, except for letting me rub behind their ears on occasion, and a plaintive meow when they want me to replenish their kibble.



Independence. Maturity. Adulting. Yep. That’s what we should be striving for. Moving from having someone bottle-feed us every little step of the way to accomplishing our writing goals to being competent to do it ourselves.

But it’s okay to allow someone to refill the kibble bowl on occasion.

CBA Bestselling author PAM HILLMAN was born and raised on a dairy farm in Mississippi and spent her teenage years perched on the seat of a tractor raking hay. In those days, her daddy couldn't afford two cab tractors with air conditioning and a radio, so Pam drove an Allis Chalmers 110. Even when her daddy asked her if she wanted to bale hay, she told him she didn't mind raking. Raking hay doesn't take much thought so Pam spent her time working on her tan and making up stories in her head. Now, that's the kind of life every girl should dream of.


  1. What a delightful post, Pam! Love the pics and the kittens. Also love hearing how you've kept them alive! So, so cute! The grands are as well!

    And you turned all that cuteness into an informative blog about writing. Good job!

    Your post brought back so many memories of my early days when the dream of publishing seemed remote. I need to look back to appreciate where I am now. The journey made that first sale and the one after that and the one after that even sweeter. As writers, we've taken the "road less traveled," in Frost's words. My advice to those just starting along the path is to enjoy each moment, learn as much as possible and keep learning. Bottom line, never give up.

    Keep us updated on the kittens as they mature. Inside or outside cats? A big question. I'm hooked on your cat tale and want to read more!

    1. Finally home and have my laptop and internet. I'm sitting here with two kitties climbing all over me. They had to stay home alone most of the day. Their first time in three weeks. :)

      Great advice, Debby!

  2. Love this post! Such wonderful analogies to the writing life, and I love the adorable kitten photos. Thank you for rescuing them! I know that's a lot of work, but well worth it in the end. I think you might be surprised how they turn out--cats (especially indoor cats) can be wonderfully affectionate and faithful companions! Their early years tend to be filled more with wanting to play with you rather than cuddle, but they'll grow to enjoy petting and lap time more as they age. I hope you'll keep them safe and happy indoors to enrich your life and theirs. Happy writing!

    1. Jerusha, you must be a cat lover! How many do you have? You need to meet our friend, Patti Jo Moore. She loves cats too!

    2. I am a cat lover. It's just that I didn't grow up with indoor cats. We had a dairy farm and we had lots of cats. The idea of a permanent litter box is a bit of an ewww factor for me. And I have to completely change my clothes and scrub my arms and hands before I go to the kitchen.

      I was a germaphobe before Covid-19! lol

      Granted, I know cats are suppose to be neat-freaks, but inside pets are just not something I'm used to.

      And there are new grandbabies to care for. So, it's a quandary.

  3. Oh, those sweet babies! You are superwoman, Pam! I don't even know how you've coped!

    1. They are pretty sweet. They're going to the vet next week to board for 4 days while I stay with my mom in the hospital. Or at least we've been TOLD I can stay because she needs an advocate while there.

      Even though our vet's office isn't officially boarding animals right now, one of the girls in the office said they'd take care of them while I'm with mom.

  4. Ohmygoodness, Pam. Those kittens are adorable! :) I really like your analogies between raising kittens and writing. It's so true. :) I hope they bring you and your family laughter and delight. Ultimately, I kind of wonder if God delights in us the way we delight in kittens?

    Just a Friday thought. :) Loved this post!

    1. Jeanne, love your mention of God delighting in us the way we delight in kittens. Such a comforting thought. Thanks for sharing!

    2. We had puppies during 9/11. I sold one of my first pieces to a book about dogs and how those puppies kept us sane in the days/weeks following 9/11. Now, we have kittens during this difficult time. God knows how to fix things just right even when we don't have a clue how it's going to turn out.

  5. Pam, this was so clever. :)

    You are one brave soul to deal with kittens right now with how crazy your life is! I'll add your new family members to my prayers. :)

    Love how you compared to the writing life. I especially related to that clawing feeling early on. :)

    1. I think I still have scars from all the clawing. Okay, not really, but there are times that you feel quite flayed!!!

  6. Such sweet babies! I am so glad you shared them with us.
    And I seriously laughed about the litter part. We do have an indoor cat and I was bracing myself for what you might come up with for that. ;-)

    1. Ha!!! Well, the kittens had to stay by themselves today while I went to babysit my grands. The new parents both returned to work this week. I left the kittens roaming free in the laundry room and they were CHAMPS. Unless I find it later, they didn't have any accidents and are using the litter box just fine.

      Maybe we can take away that with the right training and mind-set, anything is possible in even a short period of time. :)

  7. Great post, Pam! Raising kittens (or puppies) is no easy task, but we all seem to live through it. Before you know it, the kittens will be choosing their own way, but you and the cute granddaughter have been their second and third mothers. They'll never forget that.

    And the writing analogy works. It's a struggle all the way...but so rewarding!

    1. I know the granddaughter is loving being a little mother to them. Her little sister isn't quite old enough to understand that they are not dolls. We have to really watch her with them.

      My other granddaugther is 2 and she hasn't seen the kittens. She's the one with the 2 month old brother, so we haven't brought them HERE. I kinda draw the line and feeding kittens and babies at the same time. lol

      Anything worth doing is most likely a struggle, isn't it?

  8. Not only was this an entertaining read with cute cat stories and creative analogies, you've made it a lesson in how to observe the details in our world! Thank you!

    1. Linda, sometimes that's about all my brain can do... observe the little things in life and apply it to everything else. Next month, I might talk about their bath time and their reaction to the blow dryer. (They actually liked it! Ha!) But that was last week...

  9. Pam tried to post a comment, but it seems like it didn't go through, so here it is:

    Sorry to be awol today. I’m babysitting two of my grands today... first time to keep the 2 month old... so I’m being a bit of a helicopter grandma today! Ha! (Posting as anon since I don’t know my password!) Pam

    1. Thanks for letting everyone know I couldn't comment. I had planned to comment from my phone, but it's been so long since I had to use it to comment on blogger that it was asking for my password and I couldn't remember it.


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