John Steinbeck on Falling in Love: A 1958 Letter
The Nobel Prize Winner and author of The Grapes of Wrath on the importance of waiting for love
By Maria Popova

// this letter is my go-to when looking for reassurance when it comes to relationships and love: whether you’re getting together or falling apart.

New York

November 10, 1958

Dear Thom:

We had your letter this morning. I will answer it from my point of view and of course Elaine will from hers.

First – if you are in love – that’s a good thing – that’s about the best thing that can happen to anyone. Don’t let anyone make it small or light to you.

Second – There are several kinds of love. One is a selfish, mean, grasping, egotistical thing which uses love for self-importance. This is the ugly and crippling kind. The other is an outpouring of everything good in you – of kindness and consideration and respect – not only the social respect of manners but the greater respect which is recognition of another person as unique and valuable. The first kind can make you sick and small and weak but the second can release in you strength, and courage and goodness and even wisdom you didn’t know you had.

You say this is not puppy love. If you feel so deeply – of course it isn’t puppy love.

But I don’t think you were asking me what you feel. You know better than anyone. What you wanted me to help you with is what to do about it – and that I can tell you.

Glory in it for one thing and be very glad and grateful for it.

The object of love is the best and most beautiful. Try to live up to it.

If you love someone – there is no possible harm in saying so – only you must remember that some people are very shy and sometimes the saying must take that shyness into consideration.

Girls have a way of knowing or feeling what you feel, but they usually like to hear it also.

It sometimes happens that what you feel is not returned for one reason or another – but that does not make your feeling less valuable and good.

Lastly, I know your feeling because I have it and I’m glad you have it.

We will be glad to meet Susan. She will be very welcome. But Elaine will make all such arrangements because that is her province and she will be very glad to. She knows about love too and maybe she can give you more help than I can.

And don’t worry about losing. If it is right, it happens – The main thing is not to hurry. Nothing good gets away.



Graphic We Love: Debbie Millman

Debbie Millman is an expert at avoiding “self-fulfilling paralysis.” Listen to her awe-inspiring commencement speech delivered to the graduating class at San Jose State University on

While you’re at it, we found a bunch of cool books by Debbie on eBay. P.S. She makes these nifty doodles too. 

(Image: Image by Debbie Millman, via Text by Jauretsi)

like a blade of grass pushing through a pavement (not less miraculous)

“Rilke… is like a dense forest into which one disappears, penetrating slowly and often in the dark, but always with a sense of awe and imminent discovery. There are few writers whom one must in some way become before reading. I think he is one and so reading him is more than reading; it can become the most absorbing part of one’s life for a time. I am so grateful that he was there this year — just this year and no other where the spirit is towered over by the world horror, where it seems like a blade of grass pushing through a pavement (not less miraculous).”

~ May Sarton, in a letter to Virginia Woolf, from May Sarton: Selected Letters (W.W. Norton & Company, 1997)