I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of listening to George Saunders talk about the craft of writing or his own creative process. As a recovering screenwriter, I’ve spent years on projects where it seemed like everyone involved wanted to impose rules onto a story, to make it into something that checks all boxes and functions like a perfect little machine.
It took me the better part of a decade to discover that this approach to writing corrodes a story’s authenticity. It turns original storytelling into a system of telegraphed clichés that chip away at the potential for surprise, both for the writer and the audience.
Saunders is pretty good at articulating what a more creatively free writing process looks like: “A bad story is when you know what the story is, and you’re sure of it,” he says in this video from The Atlantic. This flies in the face of most advice screenwriters get to conform to precise structure and hew away the odd bits of ugliness.
I love hearing someone at his level speak in a positive light about the impossibility of storytelling. It’s the kind of advice that encourages me to continually open up the same damn Word files and work towards some uncertain result.