John Steinbeck’s struggles with writing. And how he edited.
Writing sure don’t come easy. Certainly not for mortals like Faith and me. But I find it heart-breaking to eaves-drop on a master, as humble as Steinbeck whom I worship.
How about the following admissions, taken from his field notes Journal of a Novel, when he was trying to put East of Eden together?
‘I feel weak and miserable today as though the sky were falling on me. And maybe it is.
‘Weariness is creeping on me, really creeping in, and I can’t give in to it. I know that sounds strange. Rest is always supposed to be good. But it would take too long and it would be too hard to get back.
So I am trying to go on. Sometimes I think I’m a little nuts and
sometimes worse than that. I’ll shake this off as soon as I can.
‘Sounds almost as if I were sorry for myself and I really am not.
‘Yesterday’s work was no good. I had to throw it out. I made a bad mistake in saying when I would be finished and now I find myself trying to make it when I said I would.
‘I’ll have to stop that … stop it cold.
‘The book is more important than the finish. I’ll try to re-establish in
my mind the fact that the book is never going to be done. That way it
will move smoothly to the finish.
‘God knows how to do this. But yesterday’s work was way off.’
Wow,wow, wow. Have you ever moaned at yourself like that?
Or, having completed his first draft …
‘Although sometimes I felt that I held fire in my hands and spread a page with shining, I have never lost the weight of clumsiness, of ignorance, of aching inability.’
Isn’t that wonderful?
The following taught me a lesson.
‘I want go through it (East of Eden’s manuscript) before the book is
typed and take out even the few adjectives I have let slip in.’
This god wrote without adjectives or adverbs. Sure, they appeared in his first draft. But on editing, he deleted 90% of them and sought the
correct noun or verb instead.
Tight writing indeed.
Caption to pic: Faith and me not writing. Feeding our faces, tee-hee.