If you happen to be a Peanuts fan—or a writer—you’ve probably seen the cartoon of Snoopy on top of his doghouse, hard at work on his novel. He has the perfect opening line: It was a dark and stormy night.
Long ago, I posted that cartoon above my desk at Random House because I thought it was funny. These days, I usually work at the kitchen counter, and the faded but ever-diligent Snoopy types on (or does he?) from the bulletin board in my office.
Back when I first cut out the cartoon from the newspaper, I thought the joke was that Snoopy used a major cliché to start his opus. But later, from sad experience, I realized the bigger joke: That one lofty line is as far as Snoopy gets.
In subsequent cartoons, we see him tossing crumpled pages from his typewriter until the pile of rejected words nearly reaches the top of his doghouse. Ah, the Tortured Writer. Not so funny, really. It’s pretty much my current reality, except all those terrible words go into an outtakes file on my computer. Well, not all. Most don’t make that cut, or I would be quickly out of storage. (Did you know a medium-length novel contains about 1 MB of info? Now you do!)
As I type this post, it is…a dark and stormy night. Morning, actually: 4:39 am, to be exact. I was awake for an hour before I finally decided to pull on my robe and head downstairs to write. I’ve never done such a thing, as I am usually more of a night owl, but I reminded myself that countless super-successful writers do this every single morning, rain or shine. (Maybe not Snoopy.)
It’s true everyone’s favorite literary beagle may have had a few grandiose, overly romantic ideas about the writer’s life, including those astronomical earning expectations. His novels had a lot of rough starts. I think he started a particularly disastrous romance once, and a thriller featuring monsters and bunnies.
But you have to give Snoopy credit: He did put in the work to eventually finish some of those novels. We know this because he got a LOT of brutal rejections: “We regret that (your manuscript) did not suit our current needs. If it ever does, we’re in trouble.” Ouch!
It may be daylight out there now—hard to tell—so I guess it’s time to hit the doghouse and start typing. (“Book One. Part I. Chapter One. Page 1.”) Should I make coffee to kick my brain in gear, or do early risers tough it out until they hit a slump?
I’m not sure a crack-of-dawn writing routine will work for me, but hey, this is a start, right? Snoopy and I figure we’ll need 2 to 3 days in a row to make it stick.
Readers and writers, what time of day do you get the most accomplished? Morning? Noon? Night? None of the above? Let us know in the comments!