The Steinbeck Pencil Length

John Steinbeck was very particular about his pencils. In addition to his 24 pencil ritual, John was also conscious of the length of his pencils. Once his pencils reached a certain length, commonly referred to as “the Steinbeck length,” he would discard them. These discarded pencils often ended up in the hands of his sons, Thom and John IV.

Thom shared the details of “the Steinbeck length,” and how he used his father’s pencils once they had been passed on to him.

Full transcript of the conversation included below.

When the pencils were down about halfway, or when the pencil could no longer be supported by this part of the hand… So they were about this long.

If they got any shorter, he would discard them. And I was a kid, my hands were smaller, and I got them. So I had pencils all my life.

Drove him crazy because I drew in the blank pages of his books in the library. Because I wanted paper.

So I’d open something really valuable and, “oh,” there’s that blank page between. And I’d draw in there.

About this long with a point, that was it.