Eudora Welty on the fine lines of life

Eudora Welty wrote in her memoir One Writer’s Beginnings: "Writing fiction has developed in me an abiding respect for the unknown in a human lifetime and a sense of where to look for the threads, how to follow, how to connect, find in the thick of the tangle what clear line persists. The strands are all there: to the memory nothing is ever really lost."

Which reminds me of something I heard Joyce Carol Oates say once in a talk she gave...oh, somewhere or other. (Unlike Eudora's memory, mine does misplace an item now and then.) She compared the writing of a novel to the building of a bird's nest. You gather a bit of string here, a tuft of fluff there, a blade of dry grass from somewhere else, weaving it and working it until it becomes an entirely different construct from its million varied sources.

I'm pushing hard to finish the rough of my current novel in progress, so I've hardly seen the light of day lately, and Eudora just reminded me how unhealthy that is for a writer. In order to do our work, build our nest, we need to be out gathering that raw material, eavesdropping on beauty shop conversations, playing Scrabble with an old man in a bar, driving with the windows down, playing with dogs, seeing Picasso's doorway in Paris. We have to live life in order to write about it. And more importantly, to be happy.

Comments

Amen to that!
I hate hearing writers say they've given up all the experiences that make life worth living, that they've even quit *reading* for heaven's sake, because they're too darned busy. That might work for brief periods here and there, but it takes raw material - the stuff of life - to produce any product.
Much less one worth the time that *other* busy people will want to invest in reading it.

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