My wife and I have seven cats. Actually, eight, if we count the feral cat that comes up once in a while to eat outside. But I won’t count him today. Most people think that these are my wife’s cats, because, I’m a guy, and guys are supposed to like dogs, right? Wrong. My wife never owned a cat until we started dating. I had a long-haired six-pound black Persian cat at the time that I had adopted from an ex-girlfriend. Appropriated would be the correct term. I was at her house one night watching TV and the cat jumped up on me, and I started petting it like one does when a strange animal decides it likes you.
The problem was, this cat apparently didn’t like anyone. She slept on my lap all night, and I took her home when I went home. Her name was Bobbi. She was definitely my cat. She got me through my divorce, she slept on my extra pillow at night. And the first night my current wife spent the night, Bobbi was not happy that someone else was on her pillow.
No one likes this job
Fast forward 20 years, and we have seven cats now, most of which treat my wife like Bobbi used to treat me. My wife is now a very good cat person. But, with so many cats in a small house, we have six litter boxes that we clean every day. While I love cats, I do not love coming home and smelling litter boxes. I mean, who would? Having this many cats is a borderline mental issue, so I’m very sensitive to how the house smells. I might let someone come into my house one day. It could happen.
Yet we still argue over who’s “job” it is to clean the litter boxes. It’s been mostly my wife’s since I work, and she’s a homemaker. I know, sexist, yeah, yeah, but it’s not like that, don’t be a beast. But since her hernia, I’ve had to do both. It takes about 15 minutes to clean the boxes, it’s really not that big of a deal, but you know, cat shit and piss and the overwhelming smell of ammonia.
Inspiration at the bottom of the litter box?
But what I’ve begun to notice, like my shower epiphanies, is that I get ideas while I’m cleaning the litter boxes. Not always. Sometimes, I’m too distracted with work to keep my mind blank. But on those days where I’m cleaning the boxes early enough that my daily grind hasn’t gotten my goat yet, my mind likes to distance itself from the cat shit and go off and do things. I’ve designed a fast way to add notes to Evernote with one icon press on my phone so I can quickly capture what I’m thinking and keep cleaning.
There are days when I’ve had ten ideas in 15 minutes of cleaning the litter boxes.
Yesterday, I told my wife that I’ll keep cleaning the litter boxes in an effort to share some of the household duties going forward. I realize with her injury that I need to help out more. She was very appreciative. I may even get my wiener touched tonight. Although, I wouldn’t count on that. I eventually told her why, because she’s sneaky and knows that I rarely do things for her out of pure selflessness. Don’t judge. We’ve been together 20 years, I’ve earned this.
Embrace the silence and the mundane
As has happened to me over the last four months, I’ve learned another strange thing about creating and the entire process around being creative on a daily basis. Your brain needs downtime to be able to really put all the pieces together and create something new. This is why we’ve always heard of so many creative geniuses having menial jobs.
I know one of the writers I follow is insistent about taking long walks each day. I’d do that, but my lovely bride would come along and chatter like a bird about “things.” My brain would get zero downtime, and hence no ideas. But, I’m left lovingly alone with the cat shit and piss and my ideas.
So, I recommend that you find the menial tasks in your daily life, and embrace them. Not because you might please your spouse like I could have if I could have kept my motives secret, but because it will help you generate ideas. There’s scientific evidence behind this process. It’s been documented by several creativity gurus as well that once your brain has all the data it needs, you have to go dark, do something else, relax, move on, de-focus.
I know that I definitely can’t force the good ones. Somedays, I can sit and think up ideas. Some days not. But nearly every time I clean the litter boxes, I get at least one idea.
I probably need a therapist.
But I’d rather create ideas regularly.
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