Story: What Some Folks Would Do (From Flannery O’Connor).

This week’s video story: “Well, them stories just gone and shown you how some folks would do.”


This is the quotation I’m talking about, from Flannery O’Connor’s essay “Writing Short Stories,” in Mystery and Manners:

I lent some stories to a country lady who lives down the road from me, and when she returned them, she said, “Well, them stories just gone and shown you how some folks would do,” and I thought to myself that that was right; when you write stories, you have to be content to start exactly there—showing how some specific folks will do, will do in spite of everything.

I’ve tried to explain why this passage has such power for me, but I’m not confident that I actually understand why these lines have haunted me for so long.

Do you have a quotation that sticks with you? That runs through your head, over and over?

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  • Molly

    You are amazing Gretchen. I am constantly inspired by your blog, and recently, feeling burned out by a really busy schedule, I have been scanning your past blog entries for inspiration, which I do constantly find. Your topics/blog are always so interesting and insightful, and importantly, condensed to provide fodder for thought rather than filling up a person’s thoughts. I’m not even sure how to respond to today’s video, and I can’t wait for more insightful comments from others, but your discussion of your research and the passage from this short story are interesting fodder for thought. Something I need to put a little spark in this day, finally!

    • gretchenrubin

      That’s so nice to hear – I’m thrilled that my work resonates with you.

  • MLin

    Hi Gretchen. I have not been able to access the happiness project website through the my Yahoo! link. did something happen to that link? I love your posts and read them everyday. It will be great if it can be fixed somehow. Thank you so much!

  • peninith1

    The best comment about writing I ever got was this: I had written a poem cycle about the Civil War. Invited to go on a bus tour of Northern Virginia sites important in the war, I was part of the ‘entertainment’ and read a few of my poems to the passengers. A pair of them were enthusiastic relic collectors who went about with a metal detector looking for Minie balls and other such metal debris from battlefields. At a rest stop one of them came up to me and said: “Now did you COLLECT those poems, or did you just make them up?”

    I knew they would have preferred the poems to have been ‘collected’ but I was flattered that they actually thought I might have found the true words of the historical characters portrayed in the poems.

  • Theresa

    The quote that sticks with me is from Mother Teresa. “To the world, you might be one person but to one person, you might be the world.” To me that captures so perfectly how I can make a difference. I can’t change the world because that’s too huge but I can show kindness and compassion to the individual people I meet.

    • Upbeat Mom

      Love that quote!

    • Sniggdha Jauhari

      Thank you very much Theresa, for sharing this quote. This is an answer to the question – how despite billions on this earth, each person can be unique.

  • BKF

    For years, for no particular reason, the famous first line of Rebecca ran through my head (“Last night, I dreamt I went to Manderley again”…) I recently read the following in The Painted Drum by Louise Erdrich which has stayed with me. “Where before he had talked endlessly of what he was going to and never did it, now he only thought about things he was going to do and then found his actions carrying out his thoughts before he’d even given them words.”

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  • Marsha King

    The quotation that sticks with me is Abraham Maslow’s “What a man can be, he must be.” It is my driver. I have just discovered your site and your work through the Krypton Community College project. I cannot wait to dive into class #2 and work through the Happiness Project studies with my class:)