One of the perks of spending more than half of my life teaching secondary school was the amount of reading I had to do to keep up with the students’ curriculum. The secondary reading list (grades 6 -12) had been vetted on so many levels that by the time it got to me, it was a guaranteed must-read.
I read hundreds and hundreds of books. Some authors were not my favorites, but then others changed my life.
Ray Bradbury was one of those. “All Summer in a Day,” “A Sound of Thunder,” “The Small Assassin,” Something Wicked This Way Comes, Fahrenheit 451. All deliciously creepy, sad, or shocking.
“To keep a muse, you must offer it food.” He wrote and read daily from childhood until his death – poems, essays, anything and everything - especially other authors who did not think or write like he did.
“Not to write,” he states in his book Zen in the Art of Writing, “is to die.”
Truth in those words.
He perfected a writing process that worked for him, making daily lists of word associations. He delved into childhood fears and personal nightmares, writing down everything he could remember of each, and from there created short stories that might later become novels. He said a writer should be excited about the work he or she creates; he suggests “burning down the house” or “standing on a land mine.”
When asked if he wrote prophetically, warning his readers of the future, he stated he only wanted to prevent it.
About the benefit of literary criticism or creative writing degrees, he stated that the only degree or direction a writer needs is to find his own “Zen,” a mindful DAILY writing practice, a routine by which the author comes to an honest understanding of what works and what doesn’t on the page in front of him or her. Write until at ease with the writing.
Some people call it voice or style; Bradbury called it Zen.