What Ferrets Taught Me About Being a Writer

I’ve been thinking about how much I admire ferrets and how much they’ve taught me about being a writer.

Now, before you think I’ve finally lost my mind, hear me out. Ferrets have some great qualities we can all learn lessons from.

1. Be okay with going the long way around.

One of the funniest things about ferrets is how, rather than make a straight line from one point to another, they will almost always veer off and take the long way around. They’ll go under something, through something, and really make you wait for them to reach you even when you’re just trying to give them a treat. But ferrets like the scenic route, even when it’s less convenient.

Ferrets are not known for their efficiency, and they’re totally cool with that.

Writers are kind of impatient. We want to finish our manuscript now. We want to have the revisions yesterday. And when we send out queries, we hit refresh on our inboxes like no one’s business. We want that full manuscript request now. But things don’t always (haha, ever) happen on our schedule. We get rejections, a revision and resubmit request, or whatever. It feels like the long way around. It’s frustrating, but it builds character. (And, ideally, leads to a better book in the end.)

2. Sometimes you will poop on the floor and your editor will have to help you clean it up. She won’t like it, but she will still like you. Probably.

Poop story: ferrets are sassy little things. Some ferrets (*cough*Todd*cough*) like to, ah, relieve themselves right next to the litter box. What? It’s close! It only takes a moment to clean up! (Todd has no idea how frustrating this habit is for me. Or maybe he does.)

The truth is, we’re not going to write perfect first drafts. Or perfect second drafts. And when we hand something off to our crit partner/agent/editor, it might look pretty bad, even if you didn’t realize that when you finished. Sometimes, it’s going to look like you got it close…but didn’t hit the box. Maybe you gave up early, or you just didn’t notice. Either way, your crit partner/agent/editor will see it and help you clean it up. It’s not always the most fun job (my draft = poop comparison is kind of falling apart, because I like doing crits for friends, but I don’t like cleaning poop), but your people will still like you afterwards.

Alternately: sometimes great things will happen to you and you will get all proud and thinking you’re Big Stuff…and then someone will come along and poop on the floor just to keep you humble.

3. Accept all treats offered.

Ferrets, like small children, will keep accepting treats until they explode. (I’ve never seen one explode, but I’m sure it could happen.)

As writers, we aren’t given many treats. Most of the time it seems like we get poop on the floor. (See above about humility.) So when you’re offered a treat, take it. And don’t forget about it. (Unlike a ferret, who, having devoured a treat in .3 seconds flat, will look at you like they’ve never had a treat ever, the poor thing.) Whether your treat is a book deal, a fantastic critique or review, or even someone tweeting that they loved your book — don’t forget about it. Those treats are important. Accept all of them.

4. If you’re going to nip at someone, do something ridiculously cute after so they’ll still like you.

We all have bad days. Sometimes we take out our frustration and anger on the people who love us (or love our books). But if you’re going to nip someone, apologize. Maybe do something nice for them.

But really, try not to bite.

5. Don’t be afraid to fall in love with Kippy.

I’ve now had two ferrets fall in love with Kippy…who is a cat. You might think this inter-species adoration is odd, but ferrets are totally cool with it. (You might have noticed they’re pretty laid back about weird things.)

Sometimes, writers fall in love with ideas or books other people say we shouldn’t. Maybe the idea isn’t marketable or it’s already been done a thousand times. Maybe the idea is outside of your normal genre. You know what? Go for it. Follow your writerly heart. It may not work out in the end (so far it hasn’t worked out for Todd and Kippy, but I will keep you updated), but go ahead and take the chance. You never know. It might work out perfectly.

6. Don’t give up!

Todd has this trash habit. He looooves old plastic water bottles, pill bottles, bubble envelopes, plastic bags…You know what he loves doing with his trash? He loves stashing it. Inside his Big Box, inside the cage, under the cage—wherever he feels is safe. But sometimes his pieces of trash are bigger than he is, or won’t fit when he’s trying to take them up to his cage. Or sometimes he grabs an envelope or something and…keeps stepping on it. This, of course, makes taking the envelope somewhere very difficult. Because he’s standing on it. But Todd doesn’t give up. He keeps trying to take his trash where it belongs, no matter how difficult it is. Even if the trash is bigger than he is! Sometimes he fails or needs help, but usually if he keeps trying, he succeeds.

(I really do wish I had a video of this, but I haven’t been able to get a decent one yet. Sorry. You’ll just have to take my word for it: it’s adorable.)

As writers, sometimes we see something we want and it’s just so, so big. Maybe you want to write a story that seems too huge and daunting for you to handle. Maybe you want an agent or publishing contract. Or whatever. Lots of times, the challenge seems too big and writers give up. But if you give up, you’ve already failed. You never know what you might accomplish if you just keep trying.

Yes, I know I said poop and trash like fifty times, but that’s beside the point. Ferrets! There’s a lot to admire there, don’t you think?

*wanders off to have more coffee for ferret bouncing practice*


11 Responses to What Ferrets Taught Me About Being a Writer

  1. Tez Miller Aug 11 2014 at 7:48 am #

    Good one! 🙂 For your next post, Kippy has taught you something useful 😉

  2. Angelica R. Jackson Aug 11 2014 at 10:23 am #

    This is what your post made me think of (especially the trash portion)

  3. Heather C. Myers Aug 11 2014 at 12:05 pm #


    I completely agree with your assessment – I love how creative you relate writing to ferrets as well!

    It’s a bit different in the indie self-publishing world – as much as you want to write that oddball, different story, if it’s not marketable, it probably won’t sell well. We can’t waste time writing something if the likelihood of it not turning over readership or a profit is minimal to none. (I know that sounds terribly harsh, but it’s the truth – though there are exceptions.) Does that mean don’t write? Not necessarily. Write what you want, but know it might not generate what you need it to. The best thing we can hope to do is write something we want that will sell – definitely tricky but a nice challenge.

    Which sounds exactly like a ferret to me!

    • jodimeadows Aug 13 2014 at 9:02 am #

      That definitely sounds like a ferret to me, too!

  4. Pam Aug 11 2014 at 2:58 pm #

    I absolutely love your humourous analogy. I babysat a ferret once…very fun, but very taxing (those suckers can disappear into a small space like nothing I’ve ever seen before).

    Thank you for the inspiring post. It came at the right time as I have recently received my draft back from my crit partner and am beginning the third draft (and hopefully final draft). 🙂 I’ve accepted the treat (he says I have some wonderfully natural storytelling abilities), nipped a few times although not to him but myself because I totally agree with some of his assessments (this goes along with the poop segment), am totally okay with taking the long way around (it will make me a better writer), and am surging forward excitedly (after thinking about putting writing aside for awhile).


    • jodimeadows Aug 13 2014 at 9:03 am #

      Yeah, ferrets are speedy quick. And then they sleep like the dead, so you won’t find them until they’re ready to be found if they get out of their play area!

      Good luck with your story! Hope this draft is THE draft!

  5. Alexa S. Aug 28 2014 at 11:03 pm #

    I am seriously in love with this post, Jodi! (And yes, I’m aware I’m reading this much later, but better late than never.) I really love how you take things that you’ve learned from observing/having ferrets and found ways that they can be applicable to writing! It’s seriously so legit, and I found myself nodding many times as I read. I love it (even if you did say poop a lot)!

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