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Journal of a novel: Aug. 8, 2016. Mood

August 8, 2016

In a series of posts,  I’ll share both Steinbeck’s Journal of a Novel and what I learn from it, and I’ll show you what the writing life is like for me.

John Steinbeck started his journal of a novel on January 29, 1951 . His next journal entry was Feb. 12, and he had yet to start actually writing East of Eden which at this point had only a working title. In this journal entry, he states that “tomorrow” will be his first day of work. Meanwhile he devotes several journal pages to his plans for it.

I have a good feeling about this book now and I hope I can keep it. It is a feeling of real relaxation and rest … I want to be so relaxed that the book will soothe and excite at the same time.

I’ve never given any thought as to what mood I’m in when I write, nor whether my mood has any affect on the person reading what I wrote. I certainly will give this more attention in the future.

I did learn earlier this year that readers find my work comforting. I’ve gotten emails from readers who read my books during a stressful time in their lives. One reader tackled the first book in The Bewildering Adventures of King Bewilliam, The Lost King, while in the hospital and told me that reading something with a “stress-free story line” helped his recovery.  For another reader, Book Two, The King’s Ransom, provided “a wonderful escape in the middle of the night when I can’t get a hug.”

I won’t say that’s at all what I had in mind when I wrote those books. I didn’t have anything in mind except to tell a story. Since then, however, I have bugged plenty of people to tell me why they read. “Escape” was often the answer. Even more informative than what they escape from is what, or where, they escape to: comfort.

I wouldn’t say that East of Eden is a  “soothing” story. Perhaps at the outset, Steinbeck had different plans for it. Or perhaps the comfort comes not so much from the story itself, but from the act of reading. Maybe any story would do.



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