Quote It! John Steinbeck

Abandon the idea that you are ever going to finish. Lose track of the 400 pages and write just one page each day, it helps. Then when it gets finished, you are always surprised.

– John Steinbeck, an American writer who won the Pulitzer Prize and the Nobel Prize.

Sometimes I do get frozen by the immensity of writing a novel. “400 pages? Really? How can anyone expect me to write 400 pages?”

But, sure, I can write one page today and another one tomorrow. Some days I may even be able to write more than one, but let’s not get crazy!

How do you put one word after another?

Michael Ehret, for Writing on the Fine Line


5 thoughts on “Quote It! John Steinbeck

  1. I’ve finally found a quote for the reason I write! No, I won’t give it to you here, Mike. You’ll have to wait until next week … no, in fact I think I have the subject for my next column. Whoopee!!!

  2. Dear Mike, It is the first part of the quote that baffles me. Abandon the idea of ever finishing? How is that motivational? I can understand that a huge task can be overwhelming to the point of keeping us from starting something, but if I start something I do it with the intention, expectation, and hope of finishing it. I’m not being critical of you – certainly; I’m just not getting all that Steinbeck meant. Hoping this is a good week for you! Stan

    • The thing is, writers can get all caught up in “finishing the book” — to such an extent that it can freeze you. What Steinbeck is suggesting is to free yourself of that expectation and instead of focusing on just one page at a time. I may be afraid that I can’t write a whole book, but I CAN write one page. If I do that today, and tomorrow, and the day after … not allow the entirety of the project to scare me, then one day the book will be done. It’s a variation on the “how do you eat an elephant?” idea. Well, one bite at a time, of course.

      Lose track of the end goal of 400 pages and keep your daily writing goal–your daily “bite” as your goal instead.

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