When Steinbeck quit college, what occupation did he decide to focus on? 

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andrewnightingale eNotes educator| Certified Educator

When he left Stanford University in 1925 without completing a degree, Steinbeck decided to become a freelance writer, which meant that he would not be tied to a single employer but would write articles and stories which he would submit to different publishers. He would, of course, only be reimbursed once his work was accepted.

This was a failed venture and Steinbeck survived by doing odd jobs in New York as a construction worker and a newspaper reporter. Displeased, he returned to California in 1928 and found work as a caretaker and tour guide in Lake Tahoe.

His career as a writer only commenced in 1929, with the publication of his first novel, Cup of Gold. The book had limited success and after two more novels, he finally achieved real success in 1935 with the novel, Tortilla Flat. This gave him a head start and established him as a writer. He soon followed this success with In Dubious Battle (1936), Of Mice and Men (1937) and The Long Valley (1938), which featured a collection of short stories. His most famous  work, The Grapes of Wrath, was published in 1939. At one time, the novel sold more than 10 000 copies a week and earned him the Pulitzer Prize in 1940.

Steinbeck was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1962 for his outstanding contribution to literature and "his realistic and imaginative writings, combining as they do sympathetic humour and keen social perception."

mercut1469 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

It's pretty clear that John Steinbeck always intended to be a writer. At Stanford, which he attended off and on for six years from 1919 to 1925, he concentrated on creative writing courses without focusing on achieving a degree. In the biography John Steinbeck, Writer, Jackson J. Benson argues that Steinbeck was one of the few great writers of his generation who actually received training in a college creative-writing curriculum. One of the professors who had a profound effect on Steinbeck's writing was his short story teacher Edith Ronald Mirrielees, who convinced the young Steinbeck to avoid wordiness and ornamentation in his prose. She also urged him to be careful in his revisions in order to say what he truly meant. 

After leaving Stanford in 1925, Steinbeck moved to New York City with the idea of being a journalist. For a short time, he made a meager living writing for the New York American and doing construction work, most notably as a laborer on the building of Madison Square Garden. Steinbeck's sojourn in New York was short lived as he soon returned to California, living and working near Lake Tahoe, where he wrote his first novel, the commercially unsuccessful Cup Of Gold. Eventually, Steinbeck gained success with novels such as Tortilla Flat, In Dubious Battle, Of Mice and Men, and finally fame and wealth with the publication of his masterpiece, Grapes of Wrath, in 1939.