Crumbs From the Corner: Adventures in Woolgathering

Saturday, April 26, 2008


"We cannot live only for ourselves. A thousand fibers connect us with our fellow men; and among those fibers, as sympathetic threads, our actions run as causes, and they come back to us as effects."
-Herman Melville

I have previously noted my thoughts on a story by the American writer O. Henry and how I personally believed his characters ought to have behaved differently in a certain situation.
That said, I do respect O. Henry and admire his work. In October of 2005 I had the privilege of attending a free, three-week writing class hosted by a locally published author. Seven of us sat in O. Henry's dining room in Austin and accepted advice on writing while gazing in awe at our surroundings.
I took the class primarily in order to be part of such an event. I wondered at the fact of my being in the home of a long-gone influential writer of short stories.
I learned many a thing while I was there, the most lasting of which was this:
everything is connected and inspiration for writing can come from the most benign source.
Our host performed a magician's party trick of sorts: one unrelated word, one far-flung thing hurled into the circle, and we were asked to declare the first image that sprang to mind.
Stockings, she said to us.
Around went the word, circumnavigating the room, taking on unforeseen meaning, increasing in scope and placing itself into the midst of unexplored ideas.

Car engines.

That last was mine. I had just that morning been discussing with my mother the best way to stall the tragic and ominous death rattle of my cherished car whom I had affectionately named Mrs. Doyle.
Mater, with an endless supply of magic tricks all her own, suggested that the trouble might be a loose engine belt, and to wrap a stocking around it temporarily.
All present in O. Henry's house examined the results of the exercise and were astonished that so much imaginative wealth had come from one lone word. No doubt kernels of entire stories began to develop in that afternoon in my classmates' minds and in my own.
Stockings to car engines. Every thing in this world to another, linked and entwined with invisible threads.


Anonymous said...

I'm back!!! I love the quote you cited by Melville -- that's exactly my thinking....

julochka said...

you put this so well! i've been thinking of late that everything in life is about these threads...connecting them and combining them and waiting to see the results.

last evening, we played a game with friends called bezzerwizzer (i'm not sure it has that name in english too). it's a trivia game. i am at a bit of a disadvantage in trivia games because my knowledge of danish politics and writers and other culture-related things doesn't extend much beyond ten years back. anyway, there came a question about who was the Danish television correspondent in the USSR in 1977. and to the surprise of everyone at the table, i was the fastest to come up with the answer--Samuel Rachlin.

the set of threads leading me to know that answer at the moment was complex and one could never have predicted it or believed it.

but, we go along, weaving our lives of these threads, don't we? it's so exciting to see where they lead us...

thanks for the thought-provoking post!!!

Pappy said...

How often we prove we are connected. Isn't that what we are doing with our blogging efforts? I write a story and thirty four other people comment on how much alike we think. This in spite of different locales and backgrounds. Good thoughts The.

hele said...

I really love the thought of all those invisible threads spinning a tale between all that is.

Phyllis Hunt McGowan said...

Hepzibah, It's good to see you back. Sometimes I find a quote that exactly sums up what I'm trying to say.

Julie, I've not heard of that game. I looked it up and it looks not only fun but a fountain of knowledge. It might be a bit like Trivial Pursuit, perhaps, except localised. You should tell that story sometime- the more complex and absurd the better :)

Texican, you are of course right- this is what blogging is about. A few weeks ago, for example, you wrote a post about bullying and it reminded me of a story I have yet to write but one I hadn't thought about in years. That's one example only- there are plenty. Memory is funny like that.

Hele, it makes me feel everything has a reason. I felt so bad for you when I read on your blog about that sweet pup but who knows what beautiful words he might now inspire in somebody.

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