This silly creature doing the balancing act on the top of her scratching post is Penny. Penny is blind, a fact that my husband and I didn’t realize for a long time. She does a lot of normal catlike things such as jumping on furniture, and the occasional un-catlike thing such as making a running leap at the furniture and missing, or running head-first into the same piece of furniture over and over. It took a visit to the vet, who examined her eyes and found she’s completely without blood vessels around her optical nerves, to explain those less graceful moments.
Which is why we’re always astounded to catch Penny doing things like this. How can a blind cat so confidently balance? How can she leap on top of tables and countertops (and once, the refrigerator) without even seeing where she’s going? I probably fall into the trap of anthropomorphizing – imagining if I were blind and how scared I would be, knowing the dangers that I couldn’t see. But Penny’s not human, so she doesn’t have the vivid imagination. And she doesn’t know she’s blind. She just jumps and balances and runs into the furniture and keeps going. Penny loves to play chase. She’ll meow at us until we chase her, which usually ends in her barreling into the couch or the wall or the bookcase. We’ll stop, half laughing and half horrified, and she’ll come back and meow at us some more, wondering why we stopped. She has no idea why running into things is a problem, just as she has no idea why balancing on things is impressive. She just does it.
That’s what I want to try to recapture in my writing, and in my life generally. Maybe there was some time when I was a child and could confidently bounce around and do whatever I did as a kid, completely unconcerned about how I looked or what other people thought of me. If there was, I sure don’t remember it. I sort of remember writing when I was younger, before the grueling analysis of the editorial process, before reviews positive and negative, before my short-lived attempt to join a writer’s group – which was made up of wonderful, supportive writers who had a completely different approach to writing than I did, and which led me to second-guess myself more than I ever had – before the years of not selling and wondering what the hell I could write that would sell, before the endless debates over self-publishing and price points and pixel-stained technopeasants. Some time, way back when, I didn’t wring my hands over writing. I just did it. Granted, not everything I produced back then was good, so bringing some thought to the process is beneficial. Even Penny thinks for a minute before she jumps up on something she hasn’t encountered before. But I think I could learn a lesson from my blind cat, and worry about running into the furniture a little less.
What would you do if you had the confidence of a blind cat?