Five Lessons (for Writers) from the Great Pumpkin
How many of you saw It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown on television last night?
It was almost as good as the first time I saw it thirty-four years ago. I say “almost” because the days of giddy anticipation have long fled. I miss them. Does anybody but me remember when we had three or four channels on TV and no concept of VCRs—let alone Hulu? Believe it or not, youngsters, as kids some of us actually had to wait days, weeks, months to view a beloved show. And when it was over, it was over. No rewinding, restarting the DVD, or running to the laptop. Sigh. I wouldn’t go back to those days, of course, but . . . okay, maybe I would go back, but only until after Christmas.
Anyway, I thought about our Frog Blog Gang as I watched the show. We were all in it, you know—though many of us keep changing characters. Here are a few lessons I learned this year from the Great Pumpkin.
LESSONS #2 & #3: CHARLIE BROWN LIVES IN US ALL
Charlie Brown enters in a sheet with eight holes: I had a little trouble with the scissors.
This is where I am right now. I’ve written a book. I’ve studied writing. I’ve even published. Just as Charlie Brown knows what a ghost costume is supposed to look like, I recognize a decent novel when I see it. I’m just having a little trouble with the keyboard.
At the first house:
Lucy: I got some fudge!
Schroeder: I got a chocolate bar!
Charlie Brown: I got a rock.
At the next house:
Lucy: Boy, I got three cookies!
Pig Pen: Hey, I got a package of gum!
Charlie Brown: I got a rock.
You’ve probably noticed that my fellow bloggers can be a little, um, much to hang out with.
Jeff: Hey, I got eight books on the market all at once!
Rob: Boy, I got a six-million-dollar contract!
Stephanie: My bag is full of Whitney Awards, wanna see?
Julie: I’ve got a new book, a new position in Storymakers, and a new baby!
Me & Sariah: We got rocks. They came with our houses.
You know what? There are years like that for all of us. (Sometimes there are years and years and years like that.) So what? There is no indication whatsoever—ever, ever—that Charlie Brown resents or even covets his gang’s treats. He hangs in, hangs on, parties with the rest, and then goes home to use his rocks for something fun and useful. (Believe you me, there are all kinds of useful, fun things you can do with rocks!)
LESSON #4: MOST OF US COULD STAND TO BE A LITTLE LESS LIKE LINUS
Linus: There he is! There he is! It’s the Great Pumpkin! He’s rising out of the pumpkin patch! What happened? Did I faint?
While you have to admire his faith, Linus misses out on a lot of treats by sitting in that pumpkin patch. Meanwhile, Sally’s love and loyalty leave her frustrated and angry. Don’t get me wrong here, okay? Goals are great. Commitment is key. Writing rules! But none of it can ever come at the expense of our families, friends, and neighbors. When you’re not having trouble with the keyboard, it can be the hardest thing in the world to leave that little patch of sincere creativity, even for those who love you most. Sometimes we think we want a visit from the Great Pumpkin of Publishing more than we want anything else in the whole, wide world. But do we really?
LESSON #5: MOST OF US COULD STAND TO BE A LITTLE MORE LIKE LINUS
Charlie Brown: I suppose you spent all night in the pumpkin patch, and the Great Pumpkin never showed up?
Charlie Brown: Don’t take it so hard, Linus. I’ve done a lot of stupid things in my life too.
Linus: What do you mean, “stupid”? Just wait until next year! The Great Pumpkin will appear—and I’ll be waiting for him!
Nobody needs me to point out the lesson here. Linus has been sitting in that pumpkin patch all his life...and most of mine! He is my hero! He knows absolutely that just because his big “it” hasn’t happened yet doesn’t mean it never will. He is the embodiment of with faith, all things are possible!
LESSON #5 1/2: SOMETIMES YOU HAVE TO BREAK THE RULES
Linus: I’ve learned there are three things you don’t talk about: religion, politics, and the Great Pumpkin.
If you missed the masterpiece last night, you can view it online on ABC. (Or YouTube. Or Hulu. Or probably a dozen other places.) All pictures are original to the movie. Quotes are from a 1969 United Feature Syndicate book version, written and copyrighted by the one-and-only Charles Schulz! (Published by Landoll, Inc.)