Summary of “Susan Sontag on Her Advice to Writers”

Susan Sontag spent a lifetime contemplating the role of writing in both the inner world of the writer and outer universe of readers, which we call culture – from her prolific essays and talks on the task of literature to her devastatingly beautiful letter to Borges to her decades of reflections on writing recorded in her diaries.
Every writer of fiction wants to tell many stories, but we know that we can’t tell all the stories – certainly not simultaneously.
We know we must pick one story, well, one central story; we have to be selective.
Writing nearly a decade before the golden age of ebooks and some years before the epidemic of crowdsourced-everything had infected nearly every corner of creative culture, Sontag once again reveals her extraordinary prescience about the intersection of technology, society, and the arts.
Returning to the writer’s crucial task of selecting what story to tell from among all the stories that could be told, Sontag points to literature’s essential allure – the comfort of appeasing our anxiety about life’s infinite possibility, about all the roads not taken and all the immensities not imagined that could have led to a better destination than our present one.
Writing in 2004, she saw television as the dominant form of the latter, but it’s striking to consider how true her observations hold today if we substitute “The internet” for every mention of “Television.” One can only wonder what Sontag would make of our newsfeed-fetishism and our compulsive tendency to mistake the latest and most urgent for the most important.
To tell a story is to say: this is the important story.
Complement it with Sontag on love, art, how polarities imprison us, why lists appeal to us, and the joy of rereading beloved books, then revisit this evolving archive of celebrated writers’ advice on writing.

The orginal article.