On Writing

Steinbeck’s Diary


On a website I have been visiting on and off called Brain Pickings, I read an article about John Steinbeck’s diary writing. While he worked on The Grapes of Wrath, Steinbeck maintained a diary on the side as an exercise of self-discipline as well as a means of dealing with his fears about writing. He wrote in the diary every single day. He wrote about his infinite self-doubts, doubts about his talent and ability, about battling fame and what it brought along with it, about his writing. I read it, I read the parts where he is quoted, and I felt so heartened to know that a writer of his stature could also be struggling with self-doubt and questions about whether he is a writer at all.

I drew two things out of it: that writing every day and maintaining a diary are very good exercises, and that even writers such as Steinbeck – Nobel laureate, Pulitzer winner – go through excruciating periods of doubt and anxiety.

John Steinbeck

I remember my teacher telling us once how we should review our own writing only after a decent while has passed. Otherwise, she told us, we will fall in love with our writing. I can understand that, I used to love my writing some 10 years or so ago, when I actually thought I could write well and when writing came easily to me.

When I read about writers and their struggles with writing, there is a sense of comfort that washes over me. I struggle with my own writing and I want to, one day, be able to write something substantial and of value. Reading about them, their diaries, reminds me that they started humbly, too, that they struggled too, that they knew their writing was not on par with their standard and so they worked hard, really hard to make it good enough. I draw nothing but hope and inspiration from them and these stories about them that I read.

But meanwhile, I must plough through my own journey, struggling, sweating, and all the while keeping sane.


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