I have owed you this letter for a very long time — but my fingers have avoided the pencil as though it were an old and poisoned tool.

Letter to his literary agent, found on his desk after his death in 1968

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More from John Steinbeck

The discipline of the written word punishes both stupidity and dishonesty.

A book is like a man—clever and dull, brave and cowardly, beautiful and ugly. For every flowering thought there will be a page like a wet and mangy mongrel, and for every looping flight a tap on the wing and a reminder that wax cannot hold the feathers firm too near the sun.

Letter to his editor and friend, Pascal "Pat" Covici, 1952

Texas is a state of mind. Texas is an obsession. Above all, Texas is a nation in every sense of the word. And there’s an opening convey of generalities. A Texan outside of Texas is a foreigner.

The profession of book writing makes horse racing seem like a solid, stable business.

Accepting Nobel Prize, 1962

Give a critic an inch, he’ll write a play.