Zen and the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury
fulfilled the category “Book
that Begins with Q, X, or Z” for the PopSugar 2021 Reading Challenge. Though
this book is almost thirty years old, it contained wonderful gems about the writing
The book is a series of essays written by Mr.
Bradbury throughout his career. I’ll
admit I’ve only read two of his novels, Fahrenheit 451, which shocked me
to the core, and Something Wicked this Way Comes. I saw the movie before
I read the book, but man, what a book, what a movie! Go read that and Fahrenheit
451, too. I have great respect for the writer and enjoyed listening to the
essays. I’m not a nonfiction reader, and I don’t love poetry and only tolerate
biographies. So I’ll focus on his writing advice.
One brilliant point of Mr. Bradbury’s was about feeding
the Muse. It is some of the best advice I’ve heard about writing. And here it is in a nutshell. Feed
the Muse. Feed it everything, stuff you love, things you hate, new things, old
things, all things. As a writer, we need to experience not only various a wide
variety of book genres, but we must also experience life. Our lovely writer
brains collect experiences, words, adventures, failures, observations, and file
them away to pull out later for our stories. Essentially, an author should be
all things, see all things, and feed the Muse on a varied diet so that we can
write our tales well.
People tease me I’m not really a romance writer because I read so much
fantasy, sci-fi, and mystery. I try to read everything (including poetry and nonfiction).
I read romance too, just not the gallons and gallons of it my colleagues read.
But every story I love has an element of romance in it. Look at Doctor Who.
What would it be without Rose Tyler? Think about Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
What if she never loved Angel or Spike? And Lord of the Rings. Sam and
Frodo, but I’ll say no more on that one. Many marvelous stories have a love
story at their heart, and my reading tons of “off genre” still gives me great
food for story. So read wide, my friends, and enjoy the variety.
Another great tidbit he shared discussed the
emergence of science fiction as a popular genre. (I also loved that he put
sci-fi as a subgenre of fantasy, which solved a live-long argument between Hubby
and me, but I digress). He passionately spoke of how it was a grassroots
movement with children bringing comics and stories to their parents, teachers,
other adults and showing how sci-fi was interesting and smart. He was right.
Science fiction went from “trashy”
comics to literature (well, genre literature) in his lifetime. Probably thanks
for Fahrenheit 451, am I right?
If we examine the book world today, we can witness
the same emergence of Young Adult literature. When I was a teen, we had The
Outsiders, Babysitters Club, and Sweet Valley High. I hated
those books (except for The Outsiders, I read that book into tatters). There
were no other teen books. In the early 2000s, more chapter books for kids hit
the bookstores, Magic Tree House, A to Z Mysteries, and the like. The
trend continued with books for older children until finally, we had rich
choices in both children’s
and YA books. And the grassroots movement began with teens showing teachers,
parents, and other adults these wonderful books like The Hate You Give and
Speak. Now, these books are included in high school English classes. It’s
wonderful to have books teens will actually read and enjoy taught at school.
End of soapbox rant.
Needless to say, Mr. Bradbury had piles of amazing
thoughts and advice for writers. (I didn’t even touch on his word association
bit. That was gold!) Most importantly, he urges us to not chase the dollar or literary
accolades. Write to write. Zen begins with his mantra: Work, Relaxation, Don’t Think.
I give Zen and
the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury Five Whispers in the Dark.