The character of Pollyanna is best known for her “glad game” and overwhelming optimism, but she actually tried her hand at being an author in the sequel, Pollyanna Grows Up. I found it refreshing because, for once, a character struggled with the writing process and realized she wasn’t a particularly good writer. Unlike Jo March and Bilbo Baggins, or characters like Jane Eyre or Pip from Great Expectations, who retell their own stories and are thus good writers, Pollyanna discovered that writing a story is harder than she thought.

So far all who have ever struggled with writing, here are Pollyanna’s thoughts on the subject.

“I’ve been thinking. I believe—I’ll write stories.”

Jamie turned with a start.

“You’ll—what?” he demanded.

“Write stories—to sell, you know. You needn’t look so surprised! Lots of folks do that. I knew two girls in Germany who did…It isn’t like singing. You don’t have to have a voice for it. And it isn’t like an instrument that you have to learn how to play.”

“I think it is—a little—like that,” [he said.]

“How? What do you mean? Why, Jamie, just a pencil and paper, so—that isn’t like learning to play the piano or violin!”

There was a moment’s silence. Then came the answer, still in that low, diffident voice; still with the eyes turned away.

“The instrument that you play on, Pollyanna, will be the great heart of the world; and to me that seems the most wonderful instrument of all—to learn. Under your touch, if you are skilful, it will respond with smiles or tears, as you will.”

Pollyanna drew a tremulous sigh. Her eyes grew wet.

“Oh, Jamie, how beautifully you do put things—always! I never thought of it that way. But it’s so, isn’t it? How I would love to do it! Maybe I couldn’t do—all that. But I’ve read stories in the magazines, lots of them. Seems as if I could write some like those, anyway. I LOVE to tell stories. I’m always repeating those you tell, and I always laugh and cry, too, just as I do when YOU tell them.”

And then she sets about becoming a writer, after spying a contest in a magazine.

Pollyanna began her story the next day. That is, she, with a very important air, got out a quantity of paper, sharpened up half-a-dozen pencils, and established herself at the big old-fashioned Harrington desk in the living-room. After biting restlessly at the ends of two of her pencils, she wrote down three words on the fair white page before her. Then she drew a long sigh, threw aside the second ruined pencil, and picked up a slender green one with a beautiful point. This point she eyed with a meditative frown.

“O dear! I wonder WHERE they get their titles,” she despaired. “Maybe, though, I ought to decide on the story first, and then make a title to fit. Anyhow, I’M going to do it.” And forthwith she drew a black line through the three words and poised the pencil for a fresh start.

The start was not made at once, however. Even when it was made, it must have been a false one, for at the end of half an hour the whole page was nothing but a jumble of scratched-out lines, with only a few words here and there left to tell the tale.

At this juncture Aunt Polly came into the room. She turned tired eyes upon her niece.

“Well, Pollyanna, what ARE you up to now?” she demanded.

Pollyanna laughed and colored guiltily.

“Nothing much, auntie. Anyhow, it doesn’t look as if it were much—yet,” she admitted, with a rueful smile. “Besides, it’s a secret, and I’m not going to tell it yet.”

“Very well; suit yourself,” sighed Aunt Polly. “But I can tell you right now that if you’re trying to make anything different out of those mortgage papers Mr. Hart left, it’s useless. I’ve been all over them myself twice.”

“No, dear, it isn’t the papers. It’s a whole heap nicer than any papers ever could be,” crowed Pollyanna triumphantly, turning back to her work. In Pollyanna’s eyes suddenly had risen a glowing vision of what it might be, with that three thousand dollars once hers.

For still another half-hour Pollyanna wrote and scratched, and chewed her pencils; then, with her courage dulled, but not destroyed, she gathered up her papers and pencils and left the room.

“I reckon maybe I’ll do better by myself up-stairs,” she was thinking as she hurried through the hall. “I THOUGHT I ought to do it at a desk—being literary work, so—but anyhow, the desk didn’t help me any this morning. I’ll try the window seat in my room.”

The window seat, however, proved to be no more inspiring, judging by the scratched and re-scratched pages that fell from Pollyanna’s hands; and at the end of another half-hour Pollyanna discovered suddenly that it was time to get dinner.

“Well, I’m glad ’tis, anyhow,” she sighed to herself. “I’d a lot rather get dinner than do this. Not but that I WANT to do this, of course; only I’d no idea ’twas such an awful job—just a story, so!”

During the following month Pollyanna worked faithfully, doggedly, but she soon found that “just a story, so” was indeed no small matter to accomplish. Pollyanna, however, was not one to set her hand to the plow and look back. Besides, there was that three-thousand-dollar prize, or even any of the others, if she should not happen to win the first one! Of course even one hundred dollars was something! So day after day she wrote and erased, and rewrote, until finally the story, such as it was, lay completed before her. Then, with some misgivings, it must be confessed, she took the manuscript to Milly Snow to be typewritten.

“It reads all right—that is, it makes sense,” mused Pollyanna doubtfully, as she hurried along toward the Snow cottage; “and it’s a real nice story about a perfectly lovely girl. But there’s something somewhere that isn’t quite right about it, I’m afraid. Anyhow, I don’t believe I’d better count too much on the first prize; then I won’t be too much disappointed when I get one of the littler ones.”

In the end, she doesn’t end up with any of the prizes, but she’s learned something about the work of writing “just a story.”

I hope you all find something “glad” in your writing, even if it’s only how glad you are when it’s finished. 🙂

Copyright 2015 Andrea Lundgren
Photo by rosevita, Creative Commons

One thought on “Thoughts on Writing from Pollyanna

  1. Reblogged this on Priya Prithviraj and commented:
    A wonderful lesson from the story of Pollyanna, by Andrea Lundgren. The character of Pollyanna is best known for her “glad game” and overwhelming optimism, but she actually tried her hand at being an author in the sequel, Pollyanna Grows Up.


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