John Steinbeck lived near here when he wrote Grapes of Wrath, and maybe that is what drew me to the book, Working Days, The Journals of the Grapes of Wrath, edited by Robert Demott (more). Steinbeck wrote in longhand and started each writing day with a journal entry. I found his notes to be inspiring and felt encouraged by his struggle with self-doubts and conflicting emotions as much as by his determination. He warmed up to writing by jotting down nothings to get going.
Entry #53. . . . But I can’t go on this way for I must get my slow day’s work done. And now is a good time to start on it. What a wonderful pen this is. It has and is giving me perfect service––never stops flowing for a second and never overflows and blots a word. But I’m stalling now to keep from going to work. To work.
He wrote steadily for five months in 1938, his wife typed the story, and it was done. So much for “the first draft is crap” adage. That didn’t hold true for Steinbeck.
A few weeks ago, I read David Sedaris’s Theft by Finding: Diaries (1977-2002), excerpts from his daily journals (more), and could see him maturing as time went by. So often while reading his journal entries, I was reminded of my attempt a few years ago to record the funniest thing I had seen each day. That effort lasted four or five days, and never did become a habit. Theft by Finding is funny––Sedaris never disappoints––and made me want to journal again. I’m more determined this time. I started (first entry: “Finished Sedaris’ book, Theft ….”) and have remembered to write something, anything, ten out of thirty-two days since then. It’s not a habit yet.
Writing books worth a re-read, IMHO:
Naked, Drunk, and Writing by Adair Lara. Good as a reference if one is writing a memoir or personal essays. (more)
Bird by Bird, Some Instructions on Writing and Life, by Anne Lamott. In truth, this classic is funny enough to enjoy often, even if you have no thoughts of becoming a writer. (more)