I picked up Ray Bradbury’s Zen in the Art of Writing last week after coming across a quote from it on tumblr. It’s a quick read and I would recommend it to any Ray Bradbury fans or writerly-type people lacking motivation. The overwhelming message of the book is that writers should be excited to write, because writing should be fun.
I have been scanning through the journals and collected letters of different writers, thinking a lot about the people who do the work I really admire. Sometimes I feel so distracted by the drama of my own feelings that I don’t know how to put that aside and write someone else’s story. Ray Bradbury’s point is that you shouldn’t put any of that aside; you should bring to the table all of your loves and hates, and let them inform your writing.
He let the love he had for writing push him to write a lot. Something like 1,000 words a day forever, which he thought was an essential part of getting to the point where you can write without thinking–explode, fly apart, disintegrate!
I have been working on fiction again this Summer, and I was doing really well for a while and wrote this chapter I’d been stuck on for years (no exaggeration–actual years), but then I got stuck again or just distracted, and one day passed where I didn’t write any fiction and then another day and then it had been nine days.
The rest of the quote is, “The other six or seven drafts are going to be pure torture. So why not enjoy the first draft, in the hope that your joy will seek and find others in the world who, reading your story, will catch fire too?” Saturday, I put off finishing Zen in the Art of Writing, and went to the library to put its advice to use. I reminded myself that I was still only on the first draft, so I tried to ignore my doubts and just get something on the page. And I did! Really quickly! And it was a lot of fun!
Right, fun! I know that’s why I do this, but I sometimes I forget.
Other favorite quotes from the book:
“What are the best things and the worst things in your life, and when are you going to get around to whispering or shouting them?”
“You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.”
“From now on I hope always to stay alert, to educate myself as best I can. But, lacking this, in future I will relaxedly turn back to my secret mind to see what it has observed when I thought I was sitting this one out. We never sit anything out.”
“He thought books could cure everything. We all think that at a certain time in our lives–don’t we?–when we discover books. We think in an emergency all you’ve got to do is open the Bible or Shakespeare or Emily Dickinson, and we think, “Wow! They know all the secrets.”