Working Days: John Steinbeck & the Art of Discipline (yes, my brain has been picked)

Just set one day’s work in front of the last day’s work. That’s the way it comes out. And that’s the only way it does.

I found great encouragement in Maria Popova's recent Brain Picking about John Steinbeck's diary, kept while he wrote his masterpiece, The Grapes Of Wrath. All creatives share the same basic struggles. Amazing. True. 

Popova writes, "Particularly of note is Steinbeck’s relationship with distraction, which encompasses everything outside the work — both positive and negative interferences. Life itself is a distraction from the living world he is writing into existence — visits from friends ('Sue and Bob showed up this morning. Had to kick them out. Simply can’t have people around on working days.'), outings on the town ('Good time but Jesus how the work suffers.'), rest periods ('Always on week ends I have the feeling of wasted time.'), his own body ('I’m a little sick today… It is time to go to work and that is all there is to it.'), the dentist ('I go to the dentist at four. After which digression, get back to work.'), and even something as neutral as the seasonality of summer ('Exciting but I can’t allow excitement. Leave that for this winter.'). The diary becomes his voice of reason, in which he is constantly counseling himself on retaining focus, as he does in this entry from late August: 'I must re-establish the discipline. Must get tough. So many attractive things are happening that it is difficult.'"

Taylor [Ed. — next-door neighbor] just rakes his yard and putters. But he would probably do a better job of this than I am doing. More ship-shape. I wish I were he sometimes. Just rake the yard and mix a little cement. How did I ever get started on this writing business anyway? To work.
When I think how I am not following orders to do what people think I should do, I am scared, but then I think that it is my own work, if anything, that will be remembered. I can’t work for other people. I don’t do good work with their ideas. So I’ll go on with my own.