Here's Alice Munro being interviewed by Jeanne McCulloch and Mona Simpson for The Paris Review
How do you realize you’re on the wrong track?
I could be writing away one day and think I’ve done very well; I’ve done more pages than I usually do. Then I get up the next morning and realize I don’t want to work on it anymore. When I have a terrible reluctance to go near it, when I would have to push myself to continue, I generally know that something is badly wrong. Often, in about three quarters of what I do, I reach a point somewhere, fairly early on, when I think I’m going to abandon this story. I get myself through a day or two of bad depression, grouching around. And I think of something else I can write. It’s sort of like a love affair: you’re getting out of all the disappointment and misery by going out with some new man you don’t really like at all, but you haven’t noticed that yet. Then, I will suddenly come up with something about the story that I abandoned; I will see how to do it. But that only seems to happen after I’ve said, No, this isn’t going to work, forget it.
Can you always do that?
Sometimes I can’t, and I spend the whole day in a very bad mood. That’s the only time I’m really irritable. If Gerry talks to me or keeps going in and out of the room or bangs around a lot, I am on edge and enraged. And if he sings or something like that, it’s terrible. I’m trying to think something through, and I’m just running into brick walls; I’m not getting through it. Generally I’ll do that for a while before I’ll give it up. This whole process might take up to a week, the time of trying to think it through, trying to retrieve it, then giving it up and thinking about something else, and then getting it back, usually quite unexpectedly, when I’m in the grocery store or out for a drive. I’ll think, Oh well, I have to do it from the point of view of so-and-so, and I have to cut this character out, and of course these people are not married, or whatever. The big change, which is usually the radical change.
That makes the story work?
I don’t even know if it makes the story better. What it does is make it possible for me to continue to write. That’s what I mean by saying I don’t think I have this overwhelming thing that comes in and dictates to me. I only seem to get a grasp on what I want to write about with the greatest difficulty. And barely.
You can read the whole interview - and it's definitely worth it - here.