Monday, January 24, 2011

On What I Learned About Writing from Winnie-the-Pooh

"Ideas may drift into other minds, but they do not drift my way. I have to go and fetch them. I know no work manual or mental to equal the appalling heart-breaking anguish of fetching an idea from nowhere." --A.A. Milne

The Outdoor Song for Snowy Weather
The more it snows (Tiddely pom),
The more it goes (Tiddely pom),
The more it goes (Tiddley pom),
On snowing.
And nobody knows (Tiddely pom),
How cold my toes (Tiddely pom),
How cold my toes (Tiddely pom),
Are growing.
--from The House at Pooh Corner, Chapter I
"In Which A House Is Built at Pooh Corner for Eeyore"

It's been snowy and blustery around here again. How Pooh would love it!

Winnie-the-Pooh and friends at Pooh Corner are dear to my heart. In college, a group of us read from A.A. Milne's The House at Pooh Corner on numerous occasions one particular semester. Sort of like a reader's theater except that the stage was an old ratty couch on which we gathered, and there was no audience. How this got started, I don't remember, but the idea caught on, and it was a fun--albeit strange--activity for a group of college kids. Jeannie was Pooh, Linda was Piglet, Debbie was Christopher Robin, and Seth...well, let's just say Seth had the part of Eeyore down pat. I was narrator and read all the "he saids" and story descriptions. Others filled in as needed for Kanga, Roo, and Owl.

Fast forward a few years and the book (which somehow ended up in my possession) provided opportunities for me to not only read it to my kids, but to incorporate some of the fantasy into real life, like playing our own version of Pooh Sticks down at the creek. But that's another story.

Whimisical Pooh, the Bear of Little Brain, has touched children's lives--starting with Milne's own son Christopher Robin--since 1924. His story's been printed and reprinted, translated, movie-ized, and theme-parked until he must be one of the most recognized characters on the face of the earth. If he were to give writing lessons, what do you think he would say? Let's take a guess.

Winnie-the-Pooh On Writing
On the Outdoor Song for Snowy Weather. "...he jumped up and down to keep warm, and a hum came suddenly into his head, which seemed to him a Good Hum, such as is Hummed Hopefully to Others."
Lesson #1: Writing Ideas Are Everywhere If We Listen to Our Inner Hum.

As Pooh and Piglet set out to find Eeyore. "In a little while Piglet was wearing a white muffler (of snow)around his neck... 'Pooh,' he said at last, and a little timidly, because he didn't want Pooh to think he was Giving In, 'I was just wondering. How would it be if we went home now and practised your song...?'"
Lesson #2: Writing Needs Practice--and Perseverance

In which Pooh worries about Eeyore. "'You have a house, Piglet, and I have a house, and they are very good houses. And Christopher Robin has a house, and Owl and Kanga and Rabbit have houses...but poor Eeyore has nothing. So what I've been thinking is: Let's build him a house.'"
Lesson #3: Writing is Built on Craft--and Heart

In which Eeyore finds his house missing. "'Hallo, Eeyore,' said Christopher Robin, as he opened the door and came out. 'How are you?' 'It's snowing still,' said Eeyore gloomily. 'So it is.' 'And freezing.' 'Is it?' 'Yes,' said Eeyore. 'However,' he said, brightening up a little, 'we haven't had an earthquake yet.'"
Lesson #4: A Writer Always Has Hope

In which Pooh and Piglet realize they've built Eeyore a house out, out of Eeyore's house. "'Well,' said Pooh...'the fact is,' said Pooh...You see,' said Pooh...and something seemed to tell him that he wasn't explaining very well, and he nudged Piglet again. 'It's like this,' said Piglet quickly."
Lesson #5--A Writer Needs a Critique Group to Help Along the Way 

Eeyore concludes that his house really is in a better place. "'It is a remarkable thing,' he said. 'It is my house, and I built it where I said I did, so the wind must have blown it here...It just shows what can be done by taking a little trouble...Do you see, Pooh? Do you see, Piglet? Brains first and then Hard Work.'"
Lesson #6: Writers Accept that Writing is Hard Work--and They Do It Anyway

And, finally, on Voice. "So...Christopher Robin went back with his friends Pooh and Piglet...they told him of the Awful Mistake they had made. And when he had finished laughing, they all sang the Outdoor Song for Snowy Weather...Piglet, who was still not quite sure of his voice, putting in the tiddely poms again. 'I know it seems easy,' said Piglet to himself, 'but it isn't every one who could do it.'"
Lesson #7--Voice May Not Come Easy, But It Comes to The Writer Who Doesn't Quit

Happy Snow Day, tiddley-pom!

What have you learned from one of your favorite children's characters?
(photo courtesy of


  1. Oh how I LOOOOOVE this, I'm partial to Pooh. ;) And it fits nicely as well!

  2. Excellent! Who knew such lessons could be found here? :)

  3. Genius! I love that inner hum thought!!! :O)

  4. This is freaking excellent! and totally awesome!!

  5. This is so great! I love how you tied excerpts in with writing. I just love Pooh and all his friends.

  6. Thanks, friends--glad you liked this! It was fun to write, and fun to think you enjoyed it :-) Happy Pooh thoughts to everyone...

  7. This just warmed my heart so much! Thank you for compiling this and relating it to writing. I love Pooh :)

  8. Wow-- You put a lot of hard work into this! What an excellent comparison! I never watched or read Pooh but my grandson loves him now and am learning and learning.

  9. This worked really well! I'm now trying to think of my favourite children's character - gosh, that is tricky. It might be Milly-Molly-Mandy, probably because I thought I was her! But what did I learn? Maybe life is full of simple pleasures (Writing translation - don't over-complicate sentences!)

  10. This is wonderful! I love Winnie the Pooh and his tips on writing are great!


  11. Love your "Pooh-isms"! Now I've got to think of which character I've learned from.


  12. I love the tiddley pom song. I know it by memory, the only Pooh thing that's stuck permanently in my brain.
    This was a fabulous post!

  13. Kenda, this was a such a delightful post. I've never read Winnie the Pooh, but now I want to.

  14. This was a wonderful and clever post!