Writerhead Wednesday: John Steinbeck & the Aching Urge of the Writer

Welcome to Writerhead Wednesday, a weekly feature in which a brilliant, charming, remarkable author talks about her/his writerhead…a precious opportunity for looky-loos around the world to sneak into the creative noggins of talented writers and (ever so gently) muck about.

A few weeks ago in the New York Times, I read a piece that compiled six very logical writing tips offered up by John Steinbeck (abandon the idea you are ever going to finish; write freely and rapidly; you know, the usual stuff…).

But, I was ecstatic to discover, it also included a “thoughtful disclaimer” by Steinbeck:

“If there is a magic in story writing, and I am convinced there is, no one has ever been able to reduce it to a recipe that can be passed from one person to another. The formula seems to lie solely in the aching urge of the writer to convey something he feels important to the reader. If the writer has that urge, he may sometimes, but by no means always, find the way to do it. You must perceive the excellence that makes a good story good or the errors that makes a bad story. For a bad story is only an ineffective story.”

“the aching urge of the writer”

“the aching urge of the writer”

“the aching urge of the writer”

And there, right there, neatly embedded in this disclaimer, was a glimpse into Mr. Steinbeck’s writerhead. (And likely, into the writerheads of many…)


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