Part VI of my series on books that have influenced me as a writer.
Bradbury, Ray. The Zen in the Art of Writing. Santa Barbara: Capra Press, 1990. Print.
As so many of Bradbury’s words, The Zen in the Art of Writing is an electric tour through the heart and mind of a writer as he explores his craft. This is a collection of loosely-connected essays that has provided me with great advice on construction of story. It has also given me a collection a lines which I still return to for clarity about the writing life. Bradbury defines writing as “to gently lie and prove the lie true.” (xv) He describes the great writers of the past as “the children of the gods. They knew fun in their work. No matter if creation came hard here and there along the way, or what illnesses and tragedies touched their most private lives.” (2) He challenges writers to write with passion: “If you are writing without zest, without gusto, without love, without fun, you are only half a writer . . . You are not being yourself. You don’t even know yourself. For the first thing a writer should be is—excited. Without such vigor, he might as well be out picking peaches or digging ditches.” (4) And we’re only on page four at that point! This is book I return to when I hunger to find the passion in writing. Even a few pages of this short work has me standing at my desk shouting to the heavens, “I’m a writer and with my words, I’ll take the world!”
Well said! Bradbury is one of my all time favorite writers. I love how he describes things in his book, it is very vivid, and colorful. Every book I’ve ever read by him, every scene I imagine is full of bright and vibrant colors, and each scene or story has a different hue.
I also enjoy reading him because he is one of the earlier science fiction writers. Obviously there were many before him, but he was writing when scifi was first becoming a part of culture, and his writing often reflects aspects of Western culture as it was when he was writing. He doesn’t focus on technology like so many of our current writers do, either. For Bradbury, a simple rocket is all that was needed to reach the furthest star. The important part was the journey undertaken by the people involved.
I was also always interested by how much he wrote about relatively out of the way places. He wrote about small towns in Illinois, Ohio, or Washington as much or even more than he wrote about New York or Los Angeles, and he told tales of Kilimanjaro and similar places as though they were still fantastic and exotic, because the world was a much larger place then.