“…find a way to make it fun.”
An evening out with my writing buddies is always a welcome treat, especially when there’s a reading on the agenda. This time around, we went to hear George Saunders, the author of The 10th of December and a number of other highly regarded short-story collections. He chatted with the audience, read from one of his short stories, answered questions, and signed some books — all standard fare. And yet, hearing a writer speak about how he writes always seems fresh to me.
What struck me most about George is the enormous contrast between his seemingly easygoing persona and the struggling, almost-over-the-edge characters he writes about. His attitude toward writing is anything but angsty. Here are a few of his comments that we all might do well to take to heart:
“The whole writing thing is best approached as entertainment.”
“One useful barometer: is It fun and do you feel confident doing it?”
“I’ve never fought my way out of a story.”
“Most of my writing process s rereading what I’ve done and deciding if I really like it….If the needle goes down, I don’t panic. I ask the story what it wants, what’s wrong.”
“We all know all lives if we go deep enough. Writing is trusting the process…”and “development through line-to-line craft.
Listening to George, I was struck by the calm acceptance he radiated: It was almost Zen-like. I think he brings this same calm and warmth to the job of summoning up his characters. No matter how tortured or off-base they are, as a reader, you can feel his sympathy for them, his willing suspension of judgment about their decisions. This stance as a writer can be so powerful! It endows the story that unfolds with an inevitability and a sense of appropriateness that we as readers absorb and find satisfying — a feat that’s not easy to pull off. Write on, George!