I just finished “Zen in the Art of Writing”, by Ray Bradbury.
What an absolute delight of a book.
Bradbury makes you feel like you’re sitting at the kitchen table with him as he details the specifics of his writing style. He discusses where he finds his inspiration, and how you too can find inspiration to create magical stories.
I was drawn to this book due to my addiction to blogging. My blogging career began in March of this year, and I can’t tell you enough how therapeutic the act of writing down my thoughts has been for me in these past seven months.
Along the way, as I mentioned in my Writing Down the Bones Post, I have noticed that I really enjoy the sites I visit that were founded by great writers and storytellers. I find myself bookmarking those sites, and checking them out at least once per week.
In my quest to improve my writing skills, I wanted to find a well regarded book on creative writing. Bradbury’s books always popped up at the top of the recommended list, and now I know why.
How have I come this far in my life without reading a Ray Bradbury book?
I am so embarrassed and disappointed in myself. He is a magnificent storyteller, and if this book, “Zen in the Art of Writing” is any indication, I think I’m going to be his newest fan.
He writes with such eloquence and childlike wonder and excitement, its contagious.
Where to Look for Inspiration
One of my main takeaways is that there are fascinating stories to be found in every day events.
He documents one situation where he and his wife, Marguerite, are walking along Venice Beach and they noticed the “bones of the Venice Pier and the struts, tracks, and ties of the ancient roller coaster collapsed on the sand, and being eaten by the sea.” Bradbury looks at the pieces of wood laid out and sees a dinosaur. He asks his wife, “What’s that dinosaur doing lying here on the beach?”
The encounter with the pier prompted Bradbury to write the short story, “The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms”, the next night. He sent the story to the Saturday Evening Post, who published it the next week. This is one example of many that Bradbury shares with his readers in “Zen in the Art of Writing”. Truly captivating stories about how every day events have the ability to inspire magical tales.
Characters Lead the Way in Creating Your Story
I love the way Bradbury lets his characters tell the story. He does not sit down with an outline, a main point, a chapter list, etc… He just sits down and writes, letting his characters lead his writing hand.
He explains how he can’t wait to see where the characters take him. His characters lead the way towards great adventures, and Bradbury is the intermediary between the character’s minds and the paper he utilizes for documenting the stories. In other words, he really understands and trusts his characters. He knows them so well that he has the ability to get into their heads, and allow them to dictate the story.
We all have access to unique story material
There is a quote from the book that I love. The quote centers around the fact that each of us is a complete individual.
“The one person irreplaceable to the world, of which there is no duplicate. You. As there was only one Shakespeare, Moliere, Dr. Johnson, so you are that precious commodity, the individual man, the man we all democratically proclaim, but who, so often, gets lost, or loses himself, in the shuffle.” Ray Bradbury
There is no one else in the world with exactly the same experiences that we each have in our own individual life. No one. With that in mind, everyone has the ability to pull from their personal lives the most exquisitely interesting, and unique stories. The options are wide open.
Needless to say, I LOVED this book. Mountain Man and I just donated a bunch of books to the library in an effort to de-clutter our home. I have to say, this book is worth buying and keeping with you forever. I checked it out from the library, but am considering purchasing it so that it can become a fixture on my shelves. This is saying a lot, since I’ve been in purge mode. 🙂
My next Bradbury book is “The Martian Chronicles”, which I will begin tonight. Bradbury mentions “The Martian Chronicles” in “Zen in the Art of Writing”, so I already have an inside look as to how this idea popped into his head. 🙂
Post Update: I read The Martian Chronicles and thoroughly enjoyed. My review for the Martian Chronicles is here.