Writing Through the Excuses: The Story of a Writer and Her Cat

The cat in question.

The cat in question.

By Erin Stevens

Two months ago, I adopted my first child. Weighing in at 15.5 pounds of fur and sass, Murphy (or Murfreesboro if he’s in trouble), has changed my life forever. His adoption was a long time coming. The truth is, I’ve been a self-proclaimed cat lady for as long as I can remember. It’s not uncommon for me to receive one (or more) cat-related gifts for Christmas or my birthday, and it’s no surprise I’ve found and befriended multiple cats from the Uptown neighborhood of Minneapolis. 

What is surprising is the amount of time it took me to adopt a fur child of my own. Two and a half years ago, I graduated from UW-Eau Claire, packed up my things, and headed to the Twin Cities. The first question my friends asked was: When are you going to get a cat?

My answer? When I get more settled in my job. And when that job wasn’t working out? When I find a new job, I’ll get a cat. And when I did find a new job? When I find a better paying job and have a bigger apartment, that’s when it’ll happen. 

For months, I’d spend my lunch breaks playing with the cats at the humane society, but my visits always ended with me leaving, no cat carrier in hand. 

As I walked back to work one day, it occurred to me that my delayed entrance into cat parenthood wasn’t the only thing I was making excuses about. 

I graduated from UW-Eau Claire with a degree in creative writing, but with how little I’ve written in the two years since I graduated, you wouldn’t know it. Aside from a blog I updated once a month, I wasn’t writing much else. Similar to the whole cat adoption (or lack thereof) situation, the excuses flowed. 

When I get my first job, I can focus on writing again... 

Once I’m done searching for a new job/writing cover letters I’ll blog again…

When I find a less writing intensive job, I’ll have more energy to write short stories…

Because I love writing, I kept telling myself that it needed to take a backseat to the more urgent things that needed to get done (namely finding a good, solid job).

In short, with both my writing and adopting a cat, it wasn’t the right time. Even though they are both things that bring me a great amount of joy, they were luxuries that I didn’t think I could afford. There were a million excuses that I could come up with that would show the conditions and circumstances weren’t right.

After a while, though, I realized I would always have these excuses. There would always be a reason to not sit down and write the essay, always some excuse that it wasn’t the right time to adopt a cat. Too often we put off doing what makes us happy. We say the circumstances aren’t right. We say we’ll start on Monday. We say we’ll start doing what we love in the New Year. We put off doing what we love. The conditions aren’t always going to be perfect, but if it’s what you want, you need to make the conditions work for you.

So when I landed my current job, I started looking on the humane society’s website for my fur child. A few months later I came across Murphy’s profile, and I knew it was a done deal. The conditions weren’t perfect—he was at the animal shelter almost an hour from my apartment and he was also sick when I got him. However, adopting Murphy has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, partly because he’s adorable and I like him more than most people. The other part is that he’s actually helped me get back into a writing routine. 

He doesn’t put up with my excuses. When my alarm goes off at 5:30 AM so that I have time to write before work, I don’t have the option to hit the snooze button. As soon as the alarm sounds, Murphy uses my body as his own personal trampoline. It’s hard to ignore a 15.5-pound cat standing on you, especially when said cat moves his paw to your neck and cuts off your air supply. Additionally, when I come home from work and I’m distractedly updating my blog while watching Parks and Rec, he’ll sit in front of the TV until I refocus on my writing.

If Murphy’s taught me anything, it’s that the conditions for anything won’t ever be right. 

But now I’m willing to make them work for me.