10 Thoughts on Writing by John Steinbeck

10 Thoughts on Writing by John Steinbeck

John Steinbeck

John Steinbeck was an American writer. In 1939 he wrote the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Grapes of Wrath. His novella Of Mice and Men was published in 1937.

He wrote twenty-five books, including sixteen novels, six non-fiction books and several collections of short stories.

Despite the fact that a lot of important people were critical of him and his writing, Steinbeck was enormously successful. Over time, Steinbeck became recognised as one of America’s most important writers and in 1962 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.

10 Writing Tips

Here are 10 of John Steinbeck’s thoughts about writing. Hopefully, they will inspire your writing.

1. “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.”

2. “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.”

3. “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.”

4. “I like a lot of talk in a book and I don’t like to have nobody tell me what the guy that’s talking looks like. I want to figure out what he looks like from the way he talks.”

5. “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.”

6. “A writer lives in awe of words, for they can be cruel or kind, and they can change their meanings right in front of you. They pick up flavors and odors like butter in a refrigerator.”

7. “Intention, good or bad, is not enough.”

8. “Three hours of writing require twenty hours of preparation. Luckily I have learned to dream about the work, which saves me some working time.”

9. “The words are meaningless except in terms of feeling. Does anyone act as the result of thought or does feeling stimulate action and sometimes thought implement it.”

10. “A man who tells secrets or stories must think of who is hearing or reading, for a story has as many versions as it has readers. Everyone takes what he wants or can from it and thus changes it to his measure. Some pick out parts and reject the rest, some strain the story through their mesh of prejudice, some paint it with their own delight. A story must have some points of contact with the reader to make him feel at home in it. Only then can he accept wonders.”

I think my favourite is number is number 4 as I enjoy using dialogue in my short stories. Which one resonates most with you?









  1. tnkerr

    Of late, as I make my way to work; I drive between the fields of artichokes and strawberries below Moss Landing, I see the historic buildings in old town Salinas and, “The Steinbeck Center” two times a day. In the morning on my way to work and again on the way home. Not a bad commute.
    But don’t just drive by the Center – go inside, immerse yourself.


  2. dante2730dp

    Number four caught my attention as well. I thought that I had to describe the individual entirely rather than let the dialogue build the image. Its amazing how what a person says can develop an image of said individual without laying eyes on them.


    1. Mike

      Thanks for your comments. Whenever I write dialogue I have a clear picture in my head of the characters and I just hope that my words might conjure up similar images in the heads of my readers.


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