John Steinbeck

Working Days: The Journals of The Grapes of Wrath

“This is the longest diary I ever kept. Not a diary of course but an attempt to map the actual working days and hours of a novel.”

Art is the stuff of work, not dreams. This truism is illustrated in raw form in John Steinbeck’s (1902-1968) daily journal—he called it his work diary—kept during his tremendously productive period in 1938, during which he wrote The Grapes of Wrath.

Steinbeck empowered Working Days: The Journals of the Grapes of Wrath to motivate productivity and deliver discipline. It worked. He wrote daily and drew energy and strength from the routine.

His words also chronicle a fragile mental state during this intensely productive period. As Grapes nears completion, Steinbeck’s writing in the diary becomes choppy, even incoherent. He fixates on self-doubt and develops an almost paranoid fear of being sidetracked and interrupted.

In the most painful and tender moments, this great writer wonders whether his work will be any good. Steinbeck won the Noble Prize for Literature in 1962.

Read more on self-doubt and the honest vulnerability of the creative in Stephen Fry’s autobiographic chronicle of an often self-hating man.