Joyce Carol Oates stated that “writing is like pushing a peanut across the floor with your nose.” One can compare the act of writing with pushing the peanut because both activities seem impossibly difficult to accomplish, but doing so is extremely satisfying. It is unlikely that anyone aspires to push a peanut around that way, but one can imagine just how difficult it would be to do that. Joyce Carol Oates is stating that writing is difficult, can appear futile, and requires a great deal of hard work to do it well and often.
The first requirement would be to select the peanut. This would be the equivalent of finding a topic on which to write. There are many varieties of peanuts and many topics that can be discussed; one should pick the topic that is the best fit for one’s knowledge and personality. The topic should be specific, but broad enough to leave room for discussion, just as the peanut should remain in the shell for easier transportation across the floor.
In order to prepare to move the peanut, one must get on the floor. This requires proper clothing, a clean floor, and finding the right position; preferably, on one’s hands and knees and low to the floor. Writing requires a person to first find the right equipment, such as a pen and paper as opposed to a computer. Then one should find the right place in which to write, such as a quiet room or a comfortable overstuffed chair at Starbuck’s. A collection of sources (if necessary) should be nearby for easy reference, just as the individual on the floor should ensure that there is nothing to obstruct one’s path.
It is not enough to move the peanut across the floor; one must determine how far to push the peanut and in what time frame this activity should be completed. One could stay on the floor all day, so it is better to set a goal of when the peanut should have reached its destination. In writing, an individual should set small goals of how much to write within any particular period of time. There should be a specific task at hand, such as a three-page essay or a ten-page short story, which will give the writer guidelines as to how much writing should be completed.
Both writing and pushing a peanut across the floor can appear futile. After all, what will one gain when the peanut reaches its destination? Someone might be waiting for the peanut, or the individual pushing it merely wants the sense of having completed a difficult task well. Writing can have the same sense of futility, as there will be many starts, stops, and times when words are completely erased and forgotten about. A piece of writing should have a beginning, a middle and an end; therefore, if it not completed, it appears to be a waste of time. If a person tries to explain why they tried to push a peanut on the floor, it seems less silly if the task is actually accomplished. In conclusion, writing may seem futile and often impossible, but the sense of accomplishment in having written and written well makes it worth the effort.
I. Comparison of writing with pushing peanut
II. Peanut/Topic Selection
A. Best topic for knowledge
B. Topic is specific
A. Find the right place to write
B. Find the right equipment
IV. Setting Parameters
A. Determine a length
B. Determine a time frame
V. Sense of Futility