John Steinbeck is the quintessential American writer. The Grapes of Wrath is a story, or at least a title, known by every American. Of Mice and Men is perhaps the most heart-wrenching story every told. East of Eden is arguably the greatest book every written - it was the number one bestseller in 1952, and in 2003.
Students know they are no Steinbeck. Writing scares them, and the thought of writing is immediately associated with failure.
Students are not alone, even the great Steinbeck found writing to be a daunting task. Before your students begin their writing assignment, try to inspire them by reading this passage from his semi-autobiography: Travels with Charlie.
It was like starting to write a novel. When I face the desolute impossibility of writing five hundred pages a sick sense of failure falls on me, and I know I can never do it. This happens every time. Then gradually I write one page and then another. One day's work is all I can permit myself to contemplate...
- John Steinbeck, Travels with Charlie: In Search of America
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