A Peanuts cartoon from 1972, in which Snoopy struggles with his writing:
Novice writers often get fixed on one turn of phrase and, unable to move on to a fresh idea, repeat that material in several versions. Sometimes they simply don’t have a lot to say.
Snoopy is embarking on some creative writing of his own. The rest of the Peanuts crew, however, are in school, where they are regularly faced with that dreaded homework project, the Book Report. Consider Lucy, Schroeder, Linus, and Charlie Brown, coping with “A Book Report on Peter Rabbit” (in the show You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown!); there’s a video of the piece (from the animated version, not either of the stage productions) here.
There are two problems with the assignment: having something to say, and getting the minimum required number of words out.
Schroeder hovers over the first sentence, summarizing the assignment, then fusses about his overall evaluation:
The name of the book about which
This book report is about is
Peter Rabbit which is about this
I found it very-
I liked the part where-
It was a-
and then embarks on a story that’s much more gripping for him:
It reminded me of “Robin Hood”
And the part where Little John jumped from the rock
To the Sheriff of Nottingham’s back.
And then Robin … [and so on]
Lucy makes a better start but becomes obsessional about the word count, eventually resorting to a list:
There were vegetables
In the garden
Such as carrots and spinach
And onions and lettuce
And turnips and parsley
And okra and cabbage
And string beans and parsnips
Tomatoes, potatoes, asparagus
Cauliflower, rhubarb and chives.
Linus doesn’t need to worry about word count:
In examining a book such as Peter Rabbit, it is important that
the superficial chracteristics of its deceptively simple plot
should not be allowed to blind the reader to the more substantial
fabric of its deeper motivations. In this report I plan to discuss the
sociological implications of family pressures so
great as to drive an otherwise moral rabbit to
perform acts of thievery which he consciously knew were
against the law. I also hope to explore the personality of Mr.
Macgregor in his conflicting roles as farmer and humanitarian.
Peter Rabbit is established from the start as a benevolent hero
and it is only…
Charlie Brown, meanwhile, is paralyzed by the assignment.