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Learning from John Steinbeck Letters

Novelist Thomas Steinbeck received a mountain of letters from his father, John Steinbeck. Over at The Hairpin, the son of the late Nobel Prize winning author talked about what he learned from these letters.

Follow this link to read a letter Steinbeck wrote about relationship advice. Thomas has written a number of books, most recently The Silver Lotus. Here’s an excerpt from the interview:

my father sent me this very long letter, and he had very tiny handwriting — he wrote by hand — and it was like an 18-page letter. It took me a week to decipher this thing, because of his handwriting, primarily. And when I got to the very end of it, I noticed at the very bottom, he said, “Son, I want to apologize. I would’ve sent you a note but I didn’t have the time!”

Meaning, that ultimately, the greatest amount of time in all writing is spent editing. My father said there’s only one trick to writing, and that’s not writing, that’s writing and rewriting and rewriting and rewriting. Like sculpture. I mean, the first thing off the top of your head isn’t the most brilliant thing you ever thought of. And then when you’re writing about it, when you want others to understand what you’re still talking about, then it really requires that you edit yourself really, really well, so that other people can comprehend it.

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