Eudora Welty, in her book One Writer’s Beginnings, recalls the striking of clocks and a gyroscope her father “kept in a black buckram box, which he would set dancing for us on a string pulled tight” (Welty 3). She remembers a summer trip in her family’s “five-passenger Oakland touring car,” with her mother’s hat riding over the children’s heads in the back seat, suspended overhead in a pillowcase. “This was 1917 or 1918; a lady couldn’t expect to travel without a hat” (43).
It was a simpler, slower time and place. She describes her grandparents’ springhouse and the stern librarian, Mrs. Calloway. She shares the chorus to a favorite hymn, “Love lifted me! Love lifted me! When nothing else would help, Love lifted me!” It would send her leaping, she said (31).
She learned through her work as a storyteller, that “[w]riting a story or a novel is one way of discovering sequence in experience, of stumbling upon cause and effect in the happenings of a writer’s own life…. Connections slowly emerge” (90).
Welty begins to wonder if writing fiction allows her to see people as “greater mysteries” than she first thought:
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. (90)
Her autobiography lacks the controversy and conflict we’ve come to expect from today’s memoirists. But her upbringing formed a foundation of listening and seeing that helped her unearth meaning from the smallest scenes of human experience.
She concludes the entire book satisfied to have lived boldly despite her quiet beginnings: “As you have seen,” she says, “I am a writer who came of a sheltered life. A sheltered life can be a daring life as well. For all serious daring starts from within” (104).
Your own life may contain controversy and conflict that provides rich content for modern readers. Or, your life may be comprised of a simpler, subtler, more sheltered sequence of events.
Either way, the words come from you—from within.
Either way, take that word from Welty as a dare to write.
If life has been filled with strife, dare to write. If life seems small and sheltered, dare to write. Write nonfiction, write fiction. It’s a way to discover sequence in experience—to stumble upon cause and effect in the happenings of a writer’s own life, as she says.
Write as big and bold as you can. Take the dare to write it all down. It’s a writer’s way of living on the edge, because all serious daring starts from within.
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Source: Welty, Eudora. One Writer’s Beginnings. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 1984. Print. (Affiliate link: One Writer’s Beginnings)
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