Friday, October 26, 2007

Charles Schulz


Kathie Shoop

So, I'm still clawing my way to publication--a path pitted with moments, okay days of self-doubt. However, I'm not alone in worrying about whether my work will ever feel its spine crack open to let a spray of sunlight warm its innards. I'm told that many who are published never feel a settled, sense of peace around their success. They don't experience the calm realization that their next idea or actual book is a sure thing and they often state they recongize the path they're on may shift or reverse at any point.

Reading Newsweek I came across an article about the new biography of Charles Schulz, creator of the Peanuts cartoon empire ("Schulz and Peanuts: A Biography," by David Michaelis). It seems we can add Schulz to the list of artists who even in the throes of success doubted he was actually experiencing it.

While there are many biographical details disputed by Schulz's family--nice guy or not, good father or not, generous or not, you know the way these things go-- his attempts at cartoon publication seem pretty straightforward.

According to the article, Schulz's first attempts at publication date back to his high school days. You'd think his high school cohorts would have begged old Chuck to contribute his work. Nope, nothing, shot down, no thanks, see you later.

Next, according to Newsweek, Schulz started submitting cartoons to Colliers and Saturday Evening Post. REJECT. Disney didn't merely reject him, they offered him a very helpful critique stating he was "unqualified to work as an animator."

Finally, in 1947 while working his day job, Schulz published a cartoon which was picked up and started him on the road to success.

Well, not if you asked old Chuck, I guess. He was competitive and depending on who you asked he was either helpful or spiteful to fellow cartoonists. The condition of insecurity seems to be traced back to Schulz's childhood and the way it's woven into his cartoons and daily life, was evident to many he knew.

Beyond the aspects that interest me most--the way an artists work isn't valued until the right people put their stamp on it--I am intrigued by Michaelis's insights into events and actions that defined Schulz's life. Some interpretations seem off-base and I can see why the family might be pissed. On the other hand, perhaps the biographer is just the objective eye needed to fully illuminate the life of a man who gave the world a daily jolt of laughter.

So, to all of us, published and not, hang in there. It'll happen, it'll happen, it'll happen...and when it does, here's to having the perspective to recognize the achievement for what it is--Fantastic!


Tory said...

I think a lot of the really successful artistic endeavors are something "new and different." The problem with big corporations is they don't tend to want to take risks, and the "sure thing" is very close to something that has already been done.

When I was submitting NIH grants, it was the same story. Grant committees don't want to take risks. Unfortunately, as faculty positions are increasingly tied to getting national funding, research methods don't evolve to take up the challenges of investigating new and exciting topics.

Joyce said...

I love the Peanuts cartoons. They never get old. I especially like the ones where Snoopy is writing a book.

kathie said...

Tory, you are right, it's often unique to find research operations that will fund extraordinary projects. Unfortunately, I think that leaves the door open for the more profit oriented companies--both good and bad there I suppose.

Joyce, I never read the ones where Snoopy is writing a book, I'll have to look them up.

Joyce said...

Kathie, Snoopy's books always start with "It was a dark and stormy night..."

kathie said...

Ahhhh, I see, that went over my head as I'm not a Peanuts expert. Thanks for filling me in...

Arkansas Cyndi said...

Kathy - Lurker here. I wanted to give you a link...

Near the bottom of the column, I added some of the Peanut strips. But I think you'll enjoy the other "takes" on writing.

Arkansas Cyndi

Joyce said...

Thanks, Cyndi!

kathie said...

Hey Cyndi, thanks so much for the link! I appreciate it lots and can't wait to check it out. Great to have you.