Be Woodstock, Not Snoopy

woodstock & snoopy joe cool

I once heard someone say you can be either creative or cool, but you can’t be both. This idea stuck with me, because I think it reveals a deep truth.

It’s easy to argue the point, and to identify artists you consider both creative and cool. But doesn’t their brilliance actually reside in their original outsider status?

Whether you agree or disagree with me, there’s a point to be made for remaining your authentic self. “Cool” people do what everyone else does. They wear the clothes, participate in the activities, do the things everyone in the group they care about has labeled acceptable.

But true creativity lies in doing something different. Writing a story in the way only you can write. Painting a picture no one else could have visualized. Composing a song uniquely yours.

When I think about this concept, I like to visualize Snoopy and Woodstock. Snoopy epitomizes cool, with his World War I flying ace credentials and his glamorous, seemingly real fantasy life. But I prefer Woodstock. Woodstock seems to be lost in a fog much of the time. I like the way he flutters around, often upside down. Not very cool at all.

I wrote a lot of surreal stories in the 1990s, and couldn’t get many published. The trend in literary journals at that time was ultra-realism, seasoned with a hefty dose of minimalism. My colorful tales didn’t fit in.

I could have switched to the more popular literary style. I wrote a few of those stories, actually. I felt confident they were good, but they bored me. I’d written them with only half my heart.

So I made a conscious decision then to forget about publishing. To forgo striving to become great at what was considered the best kind of writing by the group I’d wanted to join. Though I knew I had the skills to write solid realistic pieces, my inner Woodstock wouldn’t let me do it.

I’ve spent the years since developing my craft. Filling up my creative reservoir. Writing with my whole heart. And it seems that surrealism has become just a bit more popular in the literary world lately. Perhaps I’ll dust off some of those old stories and start sending them out again. Or maybe not.

Either way, I’m grateful for the inner voice that steered me toward my authentic creative self. Because I’ve spent the last decade fluttering around, upside-down half the time. Bumping against Snoopy’s doghouse now and then. Acquiring a few bruises along the way. But finding myself arriving in unexpected locations. Discovering remarkable people, amazing places and astounding things I’d hate to have missed. And always, always moving to the beat of my own internal rhythm.

Copyright @ Sandy Ackers, Strangling My Muse: Struggling to Live a Creative Life in a Stressful World,


15 Responses to “Be Woodstock, Not Snoopy”

  1. 1 Melissa (Betty and Boo's Mommy) October 11, 2009 at 3:01 pm

    GREAT post, Sandy! I’m including this in my best of the week roundup. Really needed to see this today – thank you!

  2. 2 Heather October 11, 2009 at 4:25 pm

    Thanks for a very inspiring post. It reminds me just to be Heather, and that’s enough. Your Woodstock doesn’t have his feet on the ground. You, on the other hand have revealed an important truth. I think that’s a very grounded, realistic and practical observation that everyone could connect with.

  3. 3 stranglingmymuse October 12, 2009 at 12:45 am

    I’m glad you both found this post helpful! And thanks for including me in your roundup, Melissa!

  4. 4 K a b l o o e y October 13, 2009 at 8:50 am

    I’ve got to say, I love me some Snoopy. Joe Cool aside, he did have such a vivid imagination. Maybe Joe Cool was meant to be an ironic character, kind of Snoop’s reminder not to strive for a cool detached demeanor. Nah, even I know I’m wrong here. But the point I meant to make, I think is that cool and passion/authenticity aren’t antithetical. Some artists are purely themselves and are cool as a result. I totally agree that anyone posturing and trying to be ‘cool’ is automatically less so. And I agree with the basic premise of your excellent post. I just still love me some Snoopy.

    • 5 stranglingmymuse October 13, 2009 at 3:38 pm

      I think we’re actually in complete agreement — you said some artists are purely themselves and are cool as a result, while I said the brilliance of artists who are both creative and cool resides in their original outsider status, and the important thing is being your authentic self. And I love Snoopy too, especially his fascinating imagination. But I also like the comparison of Snoopy and Woodstock as cool vs. authentic. Maybe the better insight would be that, as Snoopy’s sidekick, if Woodstock had tried to be Snoopy Jr., he would have been selling out his essential Woodstockiness.

  5. 6 Gina October 17, 2009 at 1:30 am

    this is great, just be yourself. Except I think I’m Tigger. And sometimes Eeyore. Oh, wait, that’s because I’m bipolar! oh man, thanks for the laugh!

  6. 8 Susie McCray October 18, 2009 at 4:29 pm

    Well, I’m happy to have discovered you and your muse, “Woodstock”. I’m glad you are being your creative and cool self.

    • 9 stranglingmymuse October 18, 2009 at 4:41 pm

      Thanks, Susie! I checked out your blog and noticed you’re planning to participate in NaNoWriMo this year. I did it last year and found it quite challenging — but also a valuable learning experience. I highly recommend using Write or Die to help you crank out the words. Good luck!

  7. 10 blanca March 1, 2010 at 6:34 pm

    Hello, Sandy! You have to read NO LOGO by Naomi Klein. Maybe you like it.
    Your post is interesting but I don’t agree with you because if you want to be creative, you’ll create a new style and others will follow you, so my conclusion is that: always will create a new kind of “cool guy”.

    • 11 stranglingmymuse March 2, 2010 at 11:45 am

      Actually, I agree with you, Blanca. You can create a new way of being cool by doing something original and creative that other people respond to. But you have to be different first, rather than following the herd.

      No Logo looks interesting — I’ll check it out. Thanks for stopping by and commenting!


  8. 12 Tracy April 18, 2010 at 10:18 pm

    When it comes down to it, this is all relevant to ones definition of Cool. Every person has their own definition of Cool.

    One can be Cool and not conform to the what society tells them to be, and be creative, and be intelligent, and creative.

    Creativity and Cool can co-exist and do. Many people look at those who are creative as cool and those who are creative can feel as though they are cool.

    • 13 stranglingmymuse April 19, 2010 at 8:04 am

      I agree, Tracy. My contention is that people who are following the herd to be cool — or to fit in with some group-imposed idea about coolness — as opposed to following their own inner voice wind up stifling their unique creativity.


  9. 14 Kathy Holmes May 6, 2010 at 5:07 pm

    What a fabulous post! Thank you for saying this. I know one thing that is true about me – throughout my life, I don’t follow the crowd and, therefore, it takes people a while to “get” me. But once they do, they’re in for life. I think that’s true about my writing. A few really “get” me and publishing is looking for the numbers. Will the numbers finally catch on to me? I hope so. In the meantime, I keep working on my craft, making improvements. Your post is very inspiring!

    • 15 stranglingmymuse May 6, 2010 at 6:05 pm

      Thanks, Kathy! I’m glad you found this post inspiring. And I’m happy you follow your own path, as a person and a writer!


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