I turned 54 this year and I find myself feeling like I’m in a bit of a race to get down on paper the way I really feel about life — or the way it has presented to me. And because it has presented to me very beautifully, this is hard. It is technically very hard to show positive manifestations. (“Happiness writes white,” said de Montherlant, who was, Wikipedia told me when I just now went to find out who’d said that, a Nazi collaborator.) But I can look back at the way I thought and felt even as a little kid and there was a lot of wonder there, and openness to the many sides of life — the way that beauty and ugliness co-present, for example, or the way that tragedy might be enshrouded in something really funny, or vice versa — and I feel like I’ve only barely scratched the surface so far in what I’ve been able to write. And I have finally realized that, you know, it’s not a given that my lifespan will accommodate my writing aspirations. It could be that it would take me 12 more books at six years each to get it — which means I would have to live to be 126. Which I fully intend to do, of course. But it seems to me that there are certain thoughts and vignettes and attitudes that I have always had the desire to represent — but that I’m only now picking up the chops and/or confidence to pull off. So, good news/bad news: good news that I’m progressing; bad news that life is short and art is long.
Just one of many great quotes in this conversation between George Saunders and his Random House editor, Andy Ward, over on Slate.