John Steinbeck (1902–1968) was one of the most celebrated authors of the twentieth century, his novels Of Mice and Men and East of Eden still read widely today by millions.
Here are four of his wonderful quotes about writing!
1. The writer must believe that what he is doing is the most important thing in the world. And he must hold to this illusion even when he knows it is not true.
This is one of the most important pieces of advice I’ve received from any author! This is so incredibly true. When you’re writing your latest story or novel, you’re in your own little bubble. There’s no telling if this newest project will be a success or even be published. But if you want to take it all the way, you have to believe it’s the most important thing in the world. You have to believe in it with your whole heart before anyone else will.
So many of the novels I’ve written in the last few years have gone nowhere, after years of writing and revising, after working with beta readers and literary agents on them. After years of work, now they’re just sitting in my drawer with no readers, no audience. And for many reasons these particular projects weren’t ready for prime-time, and that’s okay. While I was working on them, I believed they were important, and that mentality is the one thing that will get you to that eventual manuscript that is ready to make you a superstar in the publishing world.
2. It is a common experience that a problem difficult at night is resolved in the morning after the committee of sleep has worked on it.
Sleep is one of the most important things in your life (and it’s also a lot of fun, am I right?). Sleep is that reset button so many of us writers need at times. Because you can sit at your writing desk for hours, and for whatever reason you just can’t figure out how to get from A to B in a scene or how to solve the problem of that huge plot hole in chapter 15. At some point you have to step away and let the problems of your latest manuscript work themselves out on your own. A run around the neighborhood helps. Getting comfy on the couch and reading a book can give you the answers you need.
But one of the best tools of all is getting a good night’s sleep. Because often the next morning the idea of what you need to do hits you when you’re least expecting it. Sleep has the power to solve all kinds of problems. It’s good for your health. It make you more alert the next day. And, like I said, it’s kind of a re-set after a day when your writing didn’t go so well. If you had a terrible writing day yesterday? It doesn’t matter. Because today you’re going to do better. Today you’re going to write more, and you’re going to fix what went wrong. Sleep is essential for all of us, but it’s especially helpful for writers!
3. I have come to believe that a great teacher is a great artist and that there are as few as there are any other great artists. Teaching might even be the greatest of the arts since the medium is the human mind and spirit.
Teachers have been my heroes for a long, long time. Teachers got me interested in what I love to do now, and they have been my source of great inspiration since I was a little kid. People are shocked to learn I remember the name of all my elementary school teachers, and I also remember the names of most of my middle school and high teachers, too. Especially the English teachers. They all gave me the tools and the love for storytelling that stay with me to this day.
I’ve been an English instructor at the college level for nearly a decade now, and I do find that much of the job in a way is being an artist. You’re putting on a kind of performance every day to get the students involved in the day’s lesson and activities, and you’re using empathy and compassion, and you’re discussing all things about the human mind and spirit. It’s a great job, and on the best of my teaching days, there’s nothing else like it. I’ve walked out of classes so happy I feel ready to take on the world. And to be able to change the lives of even just a few select people in your teaching life is a gift that keeps on giving.
4. You know how advice is. You only want it if it agrees with what you wanted to do anyway.
I thought it was finally time to address what it means for you to actually take advice from so many popular and bestselling authors. The idea is to find inspiration and take chances and try something new you might not have thought about trying before. What you don’t want to do is try to do everything that’s suggested to you because, yes, some of it won’t work for you. And that’s okay. Stephen King is my all-time favorite author, and even some of his advice I don’t necessarily put into practice every day.
But if there’s something you should do, it’s this — try not to only take the advice to heart you already agreed with. Inspiration can be helpful, sure, but reading quote after quote and just remembering the advice you already agreed with isn’t going to help you in the long run. You want to push yourself. You want to aim for something that might be different or scary and see where that road takes you. If you just keep doing the same old thing, little about your writing life will change.
But if you challenge yourself to take the occasional advice from other writers you don’t necessarily agree with and implement it in your work, then there’s no telling how much success you’ll be able to achieve!
PS I’m excited to announce my third craft book about writing!
From Douglas Adams to Markus Zusak: Quotes by 100 Amazing Authors to Inspire Your Writing is now available on Amazon for just $4.99.