Ann Patchett: “Snoopy taught me how to be a writer”

From an essay, “Snoopy taught me how to be a writer,” by Ann Patchett—it was adapted by the Washington Post Outlook section from an essay that appeared in “The Peanut Papers,” published by the Library of America.

Having ventured fearlessly into the world, Snoopy could come back to the roof of his doghouse and sit straight-backed in front of his typewriter, to tap out the words that began so many of his stories: “It was a dark and stormy night.”

Wait, am I seriously discussing Snoopy, a cartoon dog, as a writer?

Am I believing in him as he was drawn to believe in himself? Did I want to be a novelist because he was a novelist?

I am. I do. I did….

Snoopy didn’t just write novels, he sent them out. In those dark days before electronic submissions, he taught me what it would mean to stand in front of a mailbox, waiting to hear from an editor. Snoopy got far more rejection letters than he ever got acceptances, and the rejections ranged (as they will) from impersonal to flippant to cruel.

Later, I could see we’d been building up to this. It wasn’t as if he’d won all those tennis matches he played in. The Sopwith Camel was regularly riddled with bullet holes. But he kept on going. He was willing to lose, even in the stories he imagined for himself. He lost, and he continued to be cool, which is to say, he was still himself in the face of both failure and success.

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