Tag Archives: Ray Bradbury

Stuff Yourself With Doing

Doing is being.
To have done’s not enough;
To stuff yourself with doing – that’s the game!
To name yourself each hour by what’s done,
To tabulate your time at sunset’s gun
And find yourself in acts
You could not know before the facts
You wooed from secret self, which much needs wooing,
So doing brings it out,
Kills doubt by simply jumping, rushing, running
Forth to be
The now-discovered me.
To not do is to die,
Or lie about and lie about the things
You just might do some day.
Away with that!
Tomorrow empty stays
If no man plays it into being
With his motioned way of seeing.

– Ray Bradbury

Book Review: Zen in the Art of Writing

Ray-Bradbury-Zen-in-the-Art-of-Writing“If you are writing without zest, without gusto, you are only half a writer.”

Were I inclined to get a tattoo, I would probably have the above sentence etched into my forehead, that way every glance in the mirror might double as a piquant reminder: don’t forget to love what you do.

For the first thing a writer should be is – excited. He should be a thing of fevers and enthusiasms. Without such vigor, he might as well be picking out peaches or digging ditches; God knows it would be better for his health.

And there, in one paragraph, is The Reason Why you should read this book, Zen in the Art of Writing. It is a collection of eleven superlative essays, written by a writer who revels in his craft. Bradbury. Ray Bradbury. He of mechanical hounds and dark carnivals and wine made from dandelions. When I say he revels in what he does, you’d better believe it. Just picture, if you will, a man who throws himself into writing like a child into a freshly-raked pile of leaves. That’s Bradbury.

From “Drunk, and In Charge of a Bicycle”:

… you look around at a community of notions held by other writers, other intellectuals, and they make you blush with guilt. Writing is supposed to be difficult, agonizing, a dreadful exercise, a terrible occupation.

But, you see, my stories have led me through my life. They shout, I follow. They run up and bite me on the leg – I respond by writing down everything that goes on during the bite. When I finish, the idea lets go, and runs off.

That is the kind of life I’ve had. Drunk, and in charge of a bicycle, as an Irish police report once put it. Drunk with life, that is, and not knowing where off to next. But you’re on your way before dawn. And the trip? Exactly one half terror, exactly one half exhilaration.

From “The Secret Mind”:

Self-consciousness is the enemy of all art, be it acting, writing, painting, or living itself, which is the greatest art of all.

From “Zen in the Art of Writing”:

The artist learns what to leave out.

His greatest art will often be what he does not say, what he leaves out, his ability to state simply with clear emotion, the way he wants to go.

The artist must work so hard, so long, that a brain develops and lives, all of itself, in his fingers.

Writing is hard, yes. Mr. Bradbury would be the first to tell you so. But it need not be – indeed, should not be – a bland or joyless exercise. It should not merely be a matter of dropping in one word after the other without screwing up the grammar. If that’s how it feels, it’s time to step back and take a look at what you’re missing.

Stoop down. Look low. See that?

Buried beneath the pyramid of elements and style, beneath the smelly carcass of “writer’s block” and the panicky butterflies that circle it – beneath all of that you may find the body of a child. Set him loose. He knows where the leaf pile is.

Choice Excerpts from ‘Fahrenheit 451’

fahrenheit

We need not to be let alone. We need to be really bothered once in a while. How long is it since you were really bothered? About something important, about something real?

With school turning out more runners, jumpers, racers, tinkerers, grabbers, snatchers, fliers, and swimmers instead of examiners, critics, knowers, and imaginative creators, the word ‘intellectual,’ of course, became the swear word it deserved to be. You always dread the unfamiliar. Surely you remember the boy in your own school class who was exceptionally ‘bright,’ did most of the reciting and answering while the others sat like so many lead idols, hating him. And wasn’t it this bright boy you selected for beatings and tortures after hours? Of course it was. We must all be alike. Not everyone born free and equal, as the Constitution says, but everyone made equal. Each man the image of the other; then all are happy, for there are no mountains to make them cower, to judge themselves against.

So! A book is a loaded gun in the house next door. Burn it. Take the shot from the weapon. Breach man’s mind. Who knows who might be the target of a well-read man?

Now let’s take up the minorities in our civilization, shall we? Bigger the population, the more minorities. Don’t step on the toes of the dog lovers, the cat lovers, doctors, lawyers, merchants, chiefs, Mormons, Baptists, Unitarians, second-generation Chinese, Swedes, Italians, Germans, Texans, Brooklynites, Irishmen, people from Oregon or Mexico. The people in this book, this play, this TV serial are not meant to represent any actual painters, cartographers, mechanics, anywhere. The bigger your market, Montag, the less you handle controversy, remember that! All the minor minor minorities with their navels to be kept clean. Authors, full of evil thoughts, lock up your typewriters. They did. Magazines became a nice blend of vanilla tapioca. Books, so the damned snobbish critics said, were dishwater. No wonder books stopped selling, the critics said. But the public, knowing what it wanted, spinning happily, let the comic books survive. And the three-dimensional sex magazines, of course. There you have it, Montag. It didn’t come from the Government down. There was no dictum, no declaration, no censorship, to start with, no! Technology, mass exploitation, and minority pressure carried the trick, thank God. Today, thanks to them, you are allowed to read comics, the good old confessions, or trade journals.

The home environment can undo a lot you try to do at school. That’s why we’ve lowered the kindergarten age year after year until now we’re almost snatching them from the cradle.

“You can’t build a house without nails and wood. If you don’t want a house built, hide the nails and wood. If you don’t want a man unhappy politically, don’t give him two sides to a question to worry him; give him one. Better yet, give him none. Let him forget there is such a thing as war. If the government is inefficient, topheavy, and tax-mad, better it be all those things than that people worry over it. Peace, Montag. Give the people contests they win by remembering the words to more popular songs or the names of the state capitals or how much corn Iowa grew last year. Cram them full of noncombustible data, chock them so damn full of ‘facts’ they feel stuffed, but absolutely ‘brilliant’ with information. Then they’ll feel they’re thinking, they’ll get a sense of motion without moving. And they’ll be happy, because facts of that sort don’t change. Don’t give them slippery stuff like philosophy or sociology to tie things up with. That way lies melancholy. Any man who can take a TV wall apart and put it back together again, and most men can, nowadays, is happier than any man who tries to slide-rule, measure, and equate the universe, which just won’t be measured or equated without making man feel bestial and lonely. I know, I’ve tried it; to hell with it. So bring on your clubs and parties, your acrobats and magicians, your daredevils, jet cars, motorcycle helicopters, your sex and heroin, more of everything to do with automatic reflex. If the drama is bad, if the film says nothing, if the play is hollow, sting me with the theremin, loudly. I’ll think I’m responding to the play, when it’s only a tactile reaction to vibration. But I don’t care. I just like solid entertainment.

Stuff your eyes with wonder, he said, live as if you’d drop dead in ten seconds. See the world. It’s more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories.

… even when we had the books on hand, a long time ago, we didn’t use what we got out of them. We went right on insulting the dead. We went right on spitting in the graves of all the poor ones who died before us. We’re going to meet a lot of lonely people in the next week and the next month and the next year. And when they ask us what we’re doing, you can say, We’re remembering. That’s where we’ll win out in the long run.

As an interesting aside: In the 1979 coda, Bradbury says, “Only six weeks ago, I discovered that, over the years, some cubby-hole editors at Ballantine Books, fearful of contaminating the young, had, bit by bit, censored some 75 separate sections from the novel.”

Because some people have absolutely no sense of irony.

The Most Sublime Fool

“If you want to write, if you want to create, you must be the most sublime fool that God ever turned out and sent rambling. You must write every single day of your life. You must read dreadful dumb books and glorious books, and let them wrestle in beautiful fights inside your head, vulgar one moment, brilliant the next. You must lurk in libraries and climb the stacks like ladders to sniff books like perfumes and wear books like hats upon your crazy heads. I wish you a wrestling match with your Creative Muse that will last a lifetime. I wish craziness and foolishness and madness upon you. May you live with hysteria, and out of it make fine stories – science fiction or otherwise. Which finally means, may you be in love every day for the next 20,000 days. And out of that love, remake a world.”

~ Ray Bradbury

Wolf (Short Story)

It’s been a goal of mine to write fiction ever since I realized how fun ink-slinging was. This week, I took a step in that direction and tried my hand at writing a short story. It was a lot of fun, I can tell you. Michael Wright was kind enough to feature it as a guest post on Novel Idea, so if you’re interested, you can click here to read it. Thoughts, opinions, and critiques would be greatly appreciated (I particularly curious to know how the ending affected you).

The story is, first and foremost, bizarre. And that’s part of the fun of it. It’s based on a tale that I heard while at a rendezvous one year. It intrigued me, and I wanted to see if I could take a few brief sentences and make a full-fledged short story out of them. I altered certain details and added new ones altogether, but the basic premise is the same.

And of course, having dabbled in the medium of the short story, the first thing that inevitably comes to my mind is a quote by master storyteller Ray Bradbury:

It is hard for me to believe that in one lifetime I have written so many stories. But on the other hand I often wonder what other writers do with their time. Writing, for me, is akin to breathing. It is not something I plan or schedule; it’s something I just do.

***Do NOT read the comments on this post until you
have read the story yourself, as there may be spoilers.***