Steinbeck on Writing

“The craft or art of writing is the clumsy attempt to find symbols for the wordlessness. In utter loneliness a writer tries to explain the inexplicable. And sometimes if he is very fortunate and if the time is right, a very little of what he is trying to do trickles through — not ever much.”

From Journal of a Novel: The East of Eden Letters, by John Steinbeck


 

This quote of Steinbeck’s rings true for me. Even writing this response, I find myself at a loss for the “right” words to use in order to best convey how I relate to it. The reader fortunately does not get to bear witness to the long pauses I take between sentences, even individual words, in order to craft what I feel is the best expression of what I want to get across. When we read a story or any work of literature for that matter, we can, if the author has suffered sufficiently enough with his creation, find ourselves contentedly lost within the flow of the work. We are blissfully unaware of said suffering, and this is how it should be.

The fact that Steinbeck openly shared his writing process and most notably his frustration with finding “symbols for the wordlessness” for me, is refreshing as well as inspiring. Makes me wonder if art can indeed be art without suffering of some form or another.

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