Monday, October 18, 2010

"Oh Good Grief, Mary Ann"

     Why do I write? Boy, what an easy topic. I can rip this blog off while watching Court TV and eating a tuna sandwich.
    Or so I thought. I had such lofty thoughts about The Muse and such. Yet, there was something vaguely familiar about them. And not familiar in a good way. Like in a plagiaristic kind of way.
     Then I realized who was being so philosophical in my head. Peanuts. Charles Schulz's Peanuts. Snoopy who fancies himself a writer (don't we all?). Linus, the thumb-sucking, blanket-dragging philosopher. And of course, Lucy the Critic. I have always been a huge Peanuts fan, but to admit they inspired me to write...well, then I'd also have to admit that I took my blankie with me to college. (Seriously.)
     Couldn't I at least claim Eudora Welty as my muse? She lived several blocks from my elementary school and I often saw her around town. I could. . .but it wouldn't be true.  However, once I got over my writing pretensions, I found my artistic connection to Charlie Brown and all the rest.
     The daily Peanuts strips were among the first things I read as a child.  I read the other comic strips too, but I never mused over them for days and weeks the way I did Peanuts.  Somewhere around eighth grade (slow muser that I am) I figured out why Snoopy and Lucy and Linus seemed closer to me than most flesh-and-blood people.
     The Peanuts gang are small children. Schulz never says how old his characters are, but I assume they were somewhere in the K-2 range. What do kids that age do? Ask questions. Lots and lots of questions. So do the Peanuts characters. Oh sure, there is usually a punchline, but a lot of deep and even religious questions appear before the tree eats Charlie Brown's kite( again), or Snoopy steals Linus's blanket.
    When I re-read my third grade journal, I see that I was asking questions, and trying to find my own answers.  This sort of soul searching evolved from simple question and answer format to the way I write today. I write to figure things out. (And I could have said that about 250 words ago.)
      Mostly, I use my stories and journals to work out the kinks in my own life.  For instance, Jimmy's Star began as a journal entry in which I was trying to figure out why something that had happened to me at age eight still enraged me as an adult. Now understand that my original incident doesn't appear at all in Jimmy. But in my journal, I wrote my way through that eight-year-old's rage, and discovered the true name and nature of this emotion.
      Yankee Girl began as a not-very-good memoir, and ended up as a catharsis. After I finished that one, I truly felt as if I had toted bags and bags of memories and emotions and thrown them in the Dumpster. Those characters and events are based in reality, so it really was like taking out the mental trash I'd been hauling around for forty plus years.
    Why do I write? To figure out life (good luck with that one, MA!) To get rid of my own demons and to honor the beautiful spirits I've had in my life. In every one of my books, I am still trying to help five or seven or eleven-year-old Mary Ann understand why things are. The funny thing is that just as you know Charlie Brown will never get his kite to fly, I see the same questions asked and answered over and over in my work. Charlie and I have had a lot of kites consumed by that kite-eating tree, but we keep trying. Wondering. Hoping. Trying to figure it out.
Posted by Mary Ann Rodman


Christie Wright Wild said...

I have an award for you on my blog.

Carmela Martino said...

>>I write to figure things out.<<
Me, too, Mary Ann.

BJ Schneider said...

I have been reading Peanuts and BC since the strips first appeared. When I spoke to a 5th grade class, I told them to read every day, even if it was the comics, because most are drawn in beginning, middle and end just like a story. Really, both strips, and the others I MUST read every day, make me smile, give me a lift, sometimes make me nod, "yeah, that's so true." Writing challenges me to think, go where my character wants to go...and get her back in better shape than when she started.