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20 Quotes on Writing by John Steinbeck

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John Steinbeck on Writing

“And now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good.”
“Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen.”
“Maybe the hardest thing in writing is simply to tell the truth about things as we see them.”
“Write freely and as rapidly as possible and throw the whole thing on paper. Never correct or rewrite until the whole thing is down. Rewrite in process is usually found to be an excuse for not going on.”
“I have written a great many stories and I still don't know how to go about it except to write it and take my chances.”
“To finish is sadness to a writer — a little death. He puts the last word down and it is done. But it isn't really done. The story goes on and leaves the writer behind, for no story is ever done.”
“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.”
“If a scene or a section gets the better of you and you still think you want it-bypass it and go on. When you have finished the whole you can come back to it and then you may find that the reason it gave trouble is because it didn't belong there.”
“Abandon the idea that you are ever going to finish. Lose track of the 400 pages and write just one page a day, it helps. Then when it gets finished, you are always surprised.”
“When I face the desolate impossibility of writing five hundred pages, a sick sense of failure falls on me, and I know I can never do it. Then gradually, I write one page and then another. One day's work is all I can permit myself to contemplate.”
“I write because I like to write. I find joy in the texture and tone and rhythm of words. It is a satisfaction like that which follows good and shared love.”
“I wish to God I knew as much about writing as I did when I was 19. I was absolutely certain about most things then. Also, I suspect, more accurate.”
“The craft of writing is the art of penetrating other minds with the figures that are in your own mind.”
“I do want to make it very convincing. And the best way to do that is to put most of it in dialogue.”
“I don't think there is a single sentence in this whole book [East of Eden] that does not either develop character, carry on the story or provide necessary background.”
“I nearly always write — just as I nearly always breathe.”
“Your audience is one single reader. I have found that sometimes it helps to pick out one person-a real person you know, or an imagined person and write to that one.”
“The basic rule [of writing] given us was simple and heartbreaking. A story to be effective had to convey something from the writer to the reader, and the power of its offering was the measure of its excellence. Outside of that, there were no rules.”
“In writing, habit seems to be a much stronger force than either willpower or inspiration.”
“Three hours of writing require twenty hours of preparation. Luckily I have learned to dream about the work, which saves me some working time.”
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