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

Writers are a little below clowns and a little above trained seals.

The Mojave is a big desert and a frightening one. It’s as though nature tested a man for endurance and constancy to prove whether he was good enough to get to California.

I am impelled, not to squeak like a grateful and apologetic mouse, but to roar like a lion out of pride in my profession.

Accepting Nobel Prize, 1962

Time is the only critic without ambition.

I hold that a writer who does not passionately believe in the perfectibility of man has no dedication nor any membership in literature.

Accepting Nobel Prize, 1962