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George Saunders :: Kenyon Review Credos

In honor of the 75 years The Kenyon Review has publishing, they are putting out credos from writers who have been previously been published within their pages. In the current issue, they invite George Saunders to contribute his credo, to which he starts, “I don’t know that I really have a credo, unless it’s ‘Trust the process.'”

“For me, the process is to take some tiny scrap of text,” he writes, “as unladen with ‘meaning’ or ‘theme’ or ‘intention’ as possible, and see what it wants me to do. The way I prompt it to tell me what to do is to revise it, and the means by which I revise it is, more or less, ‘to ear.’ I look at it, read it internally—and see how I feel about it. Often a slight rearrangement (a cut, a reordering, the insertion of a new phrase) will suggest itself instantaneously. Other times, a next sentence or small narrative beat will appear (‘Oh, she should follow him into the store.’) And I do mean ‘appear’—ideally this next bit of text alteration or froward movement does not come willed, exactly00it arrives on its own, instantaneously, unstoppable. This is where the mystery comes in—from where do those strong impulses-to-improve come? … This is also where a terrifying idea presents itself: the difference between a good writer and a so-so writer is the quality of these unwilled intuitions.”

Read the rest in the Summer 2014 issue.

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