STEINBECK, JOHN. Autograph letter signed (''John'') to Dennis Murphy, Beverly Hills, 1 September 1956. 2 pages, small folio, in blue ink on both sides of a sheet of Beverly Wilshire stationery, several dampstains (not affecting legibility); with typed transcript.
STEINBECK, JOHN. Autograph letter signed ("John") to Dennis Murphy, Beverly Hills, 1 September 1956. 2 pages, small folio, in blue ink on both sides of a sheet of Beverly Wilshire stationery, several dampstains (not affecting legibility); with typed transcript.
"A WORK OF ART IS THE PRODUCT OF TALENT PLUS DISCIPLINE AND PITILESS DISCIPLINE"
Written after visiting with Dennis in northern California. "...I seem to have gone even beyond advice into a kind of preaching. Please do not think this arises out of a desire to 'own' you. It arises probably out of perception of your very real talent together with a fear that anything may interfere with its operation...Once Gadge [Elia] Kazan told me a little sadly that he had the vices of his virtues. And talent also has the vices of its virtues. I have preached to you about the preciousness of talent and the necessity for ferociously defending it against the dismal and daily assaults of mediocrity. Now I want to go a little further in generality. Creative talent is an explosive thing and it may explode in any direction. Its components are energy and exhuberance and we know that all too often it leads one to excesses in all directions -- to drunkeness -- to drugs -- to sad uses of women without love...Talent to be operative then requires the shocking checkrein of discipline. And the writer, because his process is long finds himself in the position of having to discipline himself -- cold and alone and lonely because nobody else gives a damn. People around you, you will find, like the idea that you have written but the excruciating pain and exultance of writing is an irritating bore. Therefore you have to do it in secret. And being answerable to no one but yourself must become a cruel and abominable master. A work of art is the product of talent plus discipline and pitiless discipline. If you falter or fail in what you set out to do you will find no sympathy. Indeed you will find a little gloating..."
"If your book is good enough and fresh enough and original enough to be acceptable to you -- its chance of selling is rather lessened. Only the professional mediocre is sure of selling. The fresh and new need not be but usually is staunchly resisted...What you are doing must be wonderful and horrible and now. When it comes time to sell -- you will be done with it and it won't be yours anymore. Besides, you will be working on something else -- wonderful and horrible. And that will continue all your life. So get out of it now if you can because if you don't pretty soon there will be only two possibilities -- You will be a writer with all the joys and pains or you will mourn all your life that you are not a writer. And that's my lecture for today..."