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Journal of a novel: Aug. 12, 2016. TGIF

August 12, 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.

In his Friday, Feb. 23, Journal of of Novel entry, John Steinbeck writes that he’s tiring:

I could go on and do some more work. But I think the energy core is kind of worn down. I think, since I have done so much so far, that I will let it go for the day. I don’t want to get too tired.

Steinbeck worked on his novel every weekday. For the most part, he took Saturday and Sundays off. Most of the time, I do too. Other things that have been clamoring for attention all week, like chores and errands, can’t be put off any longer.

But I also need a break. (I noticed, Steinbeck had no problem starting a sentence with a conjunction, which is frowned upon, but if was OK for him, it guess it’s OK for me.) Writing is wearying. I’m not sure why that is. Perhaps it’s the effort of staying focused and tuning out everything else.

Many years ago I read this observation that was so brilliant, I wish I had not only kept the quote, but also kept who made it so that I could attribute it properly:

When you have been intensely creative, intensely involved in a project and have suddenly come to a standstill and cannot understand for the life or you what has happened, where your creative juice has gone, perhaps you have “The Demeter Dilemma.”

In other words, like the Greek goddess of the harvest, agriculture, and fertility in general, after a long season of producing so much, the artist is simply exhausted. We need winter, to rest, to relax, to rejuvenate, and get ready for the next growing season. Maybe Steinbeck recognized that too.

Speaking of renewal, my copy of Journal of a Novel is on interlibrary loan and I have to bring it back. Never fear, though, my very own copy to keep is on its way. So, I’ll be back on the Steinbeck Trail on Monday.

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