Self-Confidence III

[A]s a few strokes on the nose will make a puppy head shy, so a few rebuffs will make a boy shy all over. But whereas a puppy will cringe away or roll on its back, groveling, a little boy may cover his shyness with nonchalance, with bravado, or with secrecy. And once a boy has suffered rejection, he will find rejection even where it does not existβ€”or, worse, will draw it forth from people simply by expecting it.

β€” John Steinbeck, East of Eden

Today’s quote is the third in a three-part series on self confidence. Wednesday Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “A man can’t ride your back unless it’s bent.” Thursday Eleanor Roosevelt said, “No man can make you feel inferior without your consent.” These quotes are important to me because they underscore the fact that we are victims less often that we think. If I feel inferior, or intimidated it is because I have chosen to feel that way.


In human affairs of danger and delicacy successful conclusion is sharply limited by hurry. So often, men trip by being in a rush. If one were properly to perform a difficult and subtle act, he should first inspect the end to be achieved and then, once he had accepted the end as desirable, he should forget it completely and concentrate solely on the means. By this method he wold not be moved to false action by anxiety or fear. Very few people learn this.

β€” John Steinbeck, East of Eden

More Steinbeck on Writing

Sometimes in a man or a woman an awareness takes place β€” not very often and always inexplainable. There are no words for it because there is no one ever to tell. This is a secret not kept a secret, but locked in wordlessness. The craft or art of writing is the clumsy attempt to find symbols for the wordlessness. In utter loneliness a writer tries to explain the inexplainable. And sometimes if he is very fortunate and if the time is right, a very little of what he is trying to do trickles through.

— John Steinbeck, Journals of a Novel: The East of Eden Letters

This is another installment from Steinbeck’s journals written as he was giving birth to East of Eden. It has echos from my Julian Schnabel quote when he said “That is true about all art. The conflict is to try and take what is inside of you and put it inside somebody else.”

Steinbeck on Writing

I think there is only one book to a man. It is true that a man may change or be so warped that he becomes another man and has another book but I do not think that it is so with me.

— John Steinbeck, Journals of a Novel: The East of Eden Letters

East of Eden was the first book that I read by Steinbeck. It was moving and well written and rich with characters. Then I discovered Journals of a Novel: The East of Eden Letters and suddenly I felt I had been given a back stage pass to the mind of a writer.

Steinbeck had already written Of Mice and Men (1937) and The Grapes of Wrath (1939) when he set out to write East of Eden (1951). In the intervening years he lived through two divorces and served as a war correspondent. Despite the critical success of his earlier works, his standing as a major novelist had faded. As today’s quote reveals, Steinbeck also felt that he had not yet told the one story that was within him. His editor, Pascal Covici, did all that he could to encourage Steinbeck. Covici sent Steinbeck a number of notebooks and instructed Steinbeck to use them to write.