Michael Paterniti is a longtime GQ contributor, winner of a National Magazine Award and author of two New York Times bestselling books, The Telling Room and Driving Mr. Albert, and of the essay collection Love and Other Ways of Dying. At The Power of Storytelling 2015 he shared stories on his reporting travels and talked about his view of writing.


Here is the video recording of her keynote, and some highlights:



“Unscientifically, I think we write from a zone somewhere above the stomach and below the heart, and maybe based on a signal from Mars. You can begin to sound a little nutty talking about this, but we go to some other green room of words waiting inside us as well, to some collective unconscious.”


“It kills me a little to call myself a writer, and yet each time I begin again I seem to know nothing. And I write plenty of crap, sloppy drafts, lame sentences. But if I write enough of them, if the words begin to gather, and I forgive myself long enough to experiment and make mistakes, that’s where all the energy lives, and builds, and begins its shaping work. That’s where the true freedom of creativity orders all of this chaos of research, feeling, and thought into new structures and new ways of seeing stories.”


“This is the deep mystery of what we do when we write—the how of it—that I would argue isn’t so mysterious after all. Writing is everyday work. It’s a blue collar job with white collar aspirations. It’s turning wonder into words, with the materials at hand. Hours upon hours of compulsive obsessive gerrymandering, until your head and back hurts. We lose ourselves in the jungle, then return, as if after a long quest, shaggier and perhaps wiser. Doubt and hard work, that’s partly what writing is. Risk and faith, that is, too.”