When I was in college, I had a hamster named Hamlet. He was a fuzzy, golden teddy bear hamster, and of all the hamsters I’ve had in my life, Hamlet lived the longest, waddling around, shaking his little hamster hiney.
But this isn’t a sad story about my dead hamster (I mean, yeah, that part is sad, but the rest of this isn’t). Rather, I started thinking of Hamlet yesterday as I moved my writing materials from the living room back into my office.
You see, Hamlet was fond of several activities. One was running on his wheel. The other was redecorating his cage. Every couple days, Hamlet would push his house from one side of his cage to the other, clearing bedding out of his way before ultimately pushing bedding into and around his little wooden house, in its new location. This was a regular occurrence.
So as I moved my writing materials, I came up with a theory: writers are a lot like hamsters. I’ll explain.
Hamsters save food in their cheeks. Writers squirrel away nuggets of ideas in notebooks.
Hamsters are adorable about saving food in their cheeks, storing it up to munch on later. And in the same way, writers save up ideas. I like to think of room after room at AWP, full of writers with puffed out cheeks, saving up inspiration and ideas.
Writers are also notorious snackers. At least the writers I know. Just like hamsters.
The migratory patterns of the writer.
The same way that my hamster, Hamlet, liked to relocate his house every few nights, I tend to migrate my office space. I have an office in our apartment, with a desk and books and pens and things. But some days, there’s no other option than to pick up all my stuff – journal, laptop, pens, paper, books – and move it somewhere else in the house: living room sofa, balcony, or bed. And when I’ve spun my wheels there, I move everything to a new space, always relocating.
The cat is always investigating.
My cat is always around, either sitting in my lap, at my feet, behind me, or more recently, in my bookcase, sniffing the books. I believe he gets that behavior from me. I love to sniff books.
Let’s face it: writing is a lot like running on a hamster wheel.
Some days, writing feels like running on a hamster wheel: this can be a positive or a negative. Hamsters like to run on their wheels; otherwise, I don’t think they’d do it. It’s their treadmill. They’re exercising. For writers, running on the wheel can be frustrating – getting nowhere – but it can also be beneficial. We’re putting in the time, getting the exercise, working out ideas.
So today, I salute you, little hamsters, fellow writers. We’re all just scratching around in a bunch of bedding, moving things around, making a wheel turn.