Run a search on Google for “A book is like a…” and you will find that nearly everyone has a handy simile, thousands of entries dedicated to comparing books to start-ups (I suppose they do often keep us up at night and drive us into bankruptcy), to children (they are demanding and require discipline as well as inspiring great pride in us, I expect), to frigates (‘handle with care; this thing might sink you!’ perhaps?), to the good Doctor’s faithful TARDIS (it is bigger on the inside and leads to Narnia–oh, wait).
But so far as I can tell, nobody has yet compared a book to a cat, although the comparison is so perfectly neat as to defy the rules of Internet, which dictate that you can find someone comparing any one thing to any one other thing somewhere, no matter how hyperspecific we want to get about the details. (SEE: Why having an ulcer is like “having a burglar alarm go off inside you” … IN RUSSIAN.)
And a book is most definitely not like a dog. In no way could it ever be like … a dog. So happy to see you after work, so congenial and eager to please, so pleased with even the smallest investment of time or the teeniest of bones thrown its way.
But a cat:
- A cat is not dignified and neither is your book. Inspiration won’t come to you easily, or conveniently, but instead unload itself all over your lap whenever you’re least prepared to take advantage of it. It’s difficult to please, but it also can’t clearly articulate what it wants or needs to be what it needs to be, so you end up dancing in circles, trying to keep the blood flowing to your legs.
- A cat … lurks. And so does your book. It will sit on your desktop, on your laptop, on your cloud storage platform of choice … and wait for attention. Demanding attention is what cats and books do best, only passively, and without wanting to be touched except on their hyperspecific terms so don’t even think about getting cozy.
- A cat has a mind of its own, and yeah, so does your book. Its characters will run off in completely unexpected directions, your plot will do loop-the-loops instead of following your very thorough outline (or mental sketch, at least), and the ending never feels quite right once you get it in there.
But most importantly, a book is like a cat in one last meaningful way:
- A cat is worth it. And I guarantee … your book is, too. It’s worth the struggle, the lack of dignity, the lurking, all of it. And yes, it’s a wonderful feeling when you’re done and have the manuscript off to a publisher–but completion, like a cat, is never a fixed point in space or time. Pretty soon you’ll have more ideas cascading in to fill the gap, and the process begins again. The act of being an author is the real work, and the real reward. Just as a cat is its own (self-important, sometimes) reward.
And that, my friends, is how a book is like … a CAT!
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