Writers love Snoopy at the typewriter. At least, I love him. Like, a lot. I love his terrible stories that all start the same way, it was a dark and stormy night. I love his rejection letters that threaten violence. I love the everlasting optimism that drives him to write another story, send another submission, and even enlist Lucy as his beta reader. While his writing might be terrible, his ability to get up and dust himself off is an inspiration to all of us drowning in the slush pile.
But that’s not all the inspiration that Peanuts has for us. Unlike his beloved creation, Charles Schultz was a terrific writer. Charlie Brown, Snoopy, and the gang have been a constant source of joy and inspiration for decades. Today, I wanted to share with you the five most important lessons I’ve learned as a writer from them.
It’s okay to lose
Charlie Brown never has a winning baseball season. Lucy never gets Schroder to like her. Linus never gets to see the great pumpkin and Snoopy always gets rejection letters. Even Peppermint Patty, who always wins on the football field loses in the classroom.
But that’s okay. They all lose, over and over, and they’re fine. They get through, they get by. And they’re pretty happy most of the time.
Look, we’re going to lose from time to time. I know I do. I’ve had failed launches. My football and hockey team didn’t make it to the playoffs this past season. I’ve bottomed out my emergency fund more times than I care to talk about. Life is far from perfect. And that’s okay. Life is still good, even when we lose.
Don’t shy away from what you believe in
My favorite Peanuts character is Linus. He knows himself. He knows what he needs, what he believes in, and who he is.
Linus is a Theologian who carries around a blue blanket for support and believes wholeheartedly in God and The Great Pumpkin. And he doesn’t care if anyone else believes. He also doesn’t care if anyone thinks he’s foolish, or childish for doing what’s best for him.
Linus is my role model. I want to be brave enough to tell people exactly who I am and what I believe in. And in fairness, I usually am. Most people reading this will already know that I’m a witch and also a Christian. It’s weird, but it works for me.
I also aspire to be unapologetically me. To carry my version of a blue blanket for comfort as I face a world that is sorely lacking in peace. To insist upon my cup of stars.
What’s your blue blanket? Let us know in the comments. Mine is a specific red lipstick and my favorite crystal necklace with a St. De Sales medal attached to it.
Plan for the rain
One of my favorite Charlie Brown quotes is this. He said the secret to happiness is to own a convertible and a lake. If the sun is shining, you can ride around in your convertible and enjoy it. If it’s raining, you can be comforted by the knowledge that all that rain is good for your lake.
It’s gonna rain in your life. Bad things are going to happen. Life’s gonna be a lot easier if you accept that. Especially in your writing life. Maybe your publishing company will go under. Maybe your computer will crash and take your document with it. (Cloud backups, people!) Maybe your loved one will get sick while you’re trying to launch your book. Your career and your life is going to be a lot brighter if you accept right now that things aren’t always going to go to plan, and it’s not even a little bit your fault.
It’s okay. Enjoy your convertible, and know that the rain is good for your lake.
Know when to fight for yourself and your creations
This one’s a bit of a cautionary tale. Charles Schultz, much like his beloved Charlie Brown, was a little bit wishy-washy. He never liked the name Peanuts for the strip. He wanted to call it Lil’ Folk.
He also wasn’t super thrilled with the rampant commercialization of Charlie and the gang. I’m not thrilled that Hallmark owns the rights.
At some point, Schultz lost control of his creation. Likely it happened in the same way the frog is boiled, little by little.
We have to protect our creations. Yes, as writers we have to work with publishers. Yes, sometimes we need to listen to other people’s ideas. But sometimes we need to listen to ourselves and stand up for ourselves. Sometimes we’ve got to say no, even if that means we don’t work with a certain company. Otherwise, we end up with a comic strip named something we don’t like, or a whole series of books with trashy covers.
This was a lesson I needed to learn myself.
Even though Charlie Brown never wins a baseball game, he keeps trying. Even though Linus never sees The Great Pumpkin, he keeps trying. Even though Lucy will never win Schroder’s love, she keeps trying. Okay, maybe Lucy should stop trying. That’s kind of stalker behavior.
But the rest of them are right to keep trying. And so are we.
We’re not idealists here. We’re professional writers, and we know how freaking hard that is. It’s getting harder every year.
There are fewer and fewer publishing companies and bookstores. Magazines are dying. The paying markets are drying up. More and more people are struggling to make ends meet, so they sure as hell aren’t buying luxury items like books. At least not as many.
And yet, I’m going to keep trying I’m going to publish my books and submit my short stories. I encourage you to do so as well.
Step up to that pitcher’s mound. Show up in the pumpkin patch with your best friend and blue blanket. Yes, you might lose the game, or miss trick-or-treat.
But maybe, just maybe, the Great Pumpkin will find that your pumpkin patch is the most sincere. And he’ll bring toys to all the good little boys and girls.
Or, in our case and Snoopy’s, publishing contracts.