Monday, May 15, 2006

John Steinbeck: On Making Plans

A month or so ago, I read East of Eden by John Steinbeck and reported on it in these pages. One of the members of our reading group found in the library a journal written by Steinbeck as he wrote East of Eden. It is called Journal of a Novel: The East of Eden Letters. It gives real insight into what Steinbeck was thinking as he wrote East of Eden, but it is also one of the best books on the process of writing that I have read. In addition, there are pungent observations about life that I find apropo. This morning, I came upon the following passage which I just love because I think it applies to me:

I am going to set down Adam's plans for his life. The fact that he isn't going to get even one of them has no emphasis whatever. Plans are real things and not experience. A rich life is rich in plans. If they don't come off, they are still a little bit realized. If they do, they may be disappointing. That's why a trip described becomes better the greater the time between the trip and the telling. I believe too that if you can know a man's plans, you know more about him than you can in any other way. Plans are daydreaming and this is an absolute measure of a man. Thus if I dwell heavily on plans, it is because I am trying to put down the whole man. What a strange life it is. Inspecting it for the purpose of setting it down on paper only illuminates its strangeness. There are strange things in people. I guess one of the things that sets us apart from other animals is our dreams and our plans.

1 comment:

smuggy said...

Excellent passage. I am especially intrigued by the part about the telling of a trip becoming greater the more time there is between the trip and the telling. I'll have to keep that in mind when I do some travel writing, which is one of my plans. By the way, I am just finishing up "East of Eden". Steinbeck was indeed a master.