How a Story Becomes a ‘Hopeful Thing’: George Saunders on His Writing Process

“We buy into some version of the intentional fallacy: the notion that art is about having a clear-cut intention and then confidently executing same.” This makes so much sense to me in not only writing but also painting. The end result is often not what one sets out to achieve. I also love what he says about the many incremental changes that change the course of the ship.

Longreads

At The Guardian, George Saunders reflects on his writing process. The magical, romantic notion where fully formed art leaps from the author’s brain on to the page? It dishonors the writer, the reader, and the work. In reality, it takes “hundreds of drafts” and “thousands of incremental adjustments” to form a story into a “hopeful thing.”

If you love George Saunders, check out the Anton Chekhov-George Saunders Humanity Kit and see what it’s like to take a literature course with Mr. Saunders, for yourself.

We often discuss art this way: the artist had something he “wanted to express”, and then he just, you know … expressed it. We buy into some version of the intentional fallacy: the notion that art is about having a clear-cut intention and then confidently executing same.

The actual process, in my experience, is much more mysterious and more of a pain in the…

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