10 Great Quotes from John Steinbeck

10 witty and inspiring quotes from the author of Of Mice and Men

An interviewer once asked John Steinbeck, ‘How do you go about writing?’ Steinbeck reportedly replied, ‘With a pencil.’ Elsewhere, thankfully, he was more forthcoming about the nature of writing, whether his own, or literature in general. In this post we’ve gathered up ten of the best John Steinbeck quotes, on topics ranging from the nature of ideas to the odd ‘fan’ mail Steinbeck received.

The discipline of the written word punishes both stupidity and dishonesty. – ‘In Awe of Words’, The Exonian, 1930

Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen. – Interview with Robert van Gelder, April 1947; quoted in Jay Parini, John Steinbeck : A Biography

John SteinbeckWhen a man says he does not want to speak of something he usually means he can think of nothing else. – East of Eden

Writers are a little below clowns and a little above trained seals. – Quote magazine, June 1961

The free, exploring mind of the individual human is the most valuable thing in the world. – East of Eden

Unless a reviewer has the courage to give you unqualified praise, I say ignore the bastard. – Quoted in J. K. Galbraith, The Affluent Society

Time is the only critic without ambition. – Writers at Work

An answer is invariably the parent of a great family of new questions. – The Log from the Sea of Cortez

One man was so mad at me that he ended his letter: ‘Beware. You will never get out of this world alive.’ – ‘The Mail I’ve Seen’, Saturday Review, 1956

Literature is as old as speech. It grew out of human need for it, and it has not changed except to become more needed. – Nobel Prize acceptance speech, 1962

If you enjoyed this pick of the best John Steinbeck quotes, then you might be interested in our five fascinating facts about John Steinbeck – in which we reveal what happened to an early draft of Of Mice and Men and the extraordinary legend surrounding a Japanese translation of The Grapes of Wrath.

Image: John Steinbeck in 1962, photographer unknown, Wikimedia Commons.


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  3. Reblogged this on Maria Holm and commented:
    I love to read fine quotes

  4. Reblogged this on Things I Like to Blog About… and commented:
    Love Steinbeck!

  5. I like the one about ideas and rabbits. He’s totally right.

  6. Wonderful quotes, my favourite is also the rabbit quote or possibly the one about the pencil. Direct and to the point. Thank you for sharing. :)

  7. Reblogged this on MorgEn Bailey's Writing Blog and commented:
    Some great quotes. My favourite is the rabbit one. :)

    • Here’s another: I’ve seen a look in dog’s eyes, a quickly vanishing look of amazed contempt, and I am convinced that dogs think humans are nuts.

  8. I loved all these quotes, but my favorite one was: “When a man says he does not want to speak of something he usually means he can think of nothing else.”

  9. Lovely quotes, especially the one about the need for literature when he accepted his Nobel Prize. Thanks for sharing!

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