Zen in the Art of Writing

Extremely interesting & helpful tidbits from the collection of essays on writing by Ray Bradbury
  1. "Every morning I jump out of bed and step on a landmine. The landmine is me. After the explosion, I spend the rest of the day putting the pieces together. Now, it's your turn. Jump!"
    (On his writing schedule/process each day)
  2. "Find a character, like yourself, who will want something or not want something, with all his heart. Give him running orders. Shoot him off. Then follow as fast as you can go. The character, in his great love, or hate, will rush you through to the end of the story."
    (Interesting)
  3. "What can we writers learn from lizards, lift from birds? In quickness is truth. The faster you blurt, the more swiftly you write, the more honest you are. In hesitation is thought. In delay comes the effort for a style, instead of leaping upon truth which is the only style worth deadfalling or tiger-trapping."
    (Bradbury's really big on writing stream-of-conscious as exercises to see what memories/images/feelings a writer evokes & can use later)
  4. "Read poetry every day of your life. Poetry is good because it flexes muscles you don't use often enough. Poetry expands the senses and keeps them in prime condition. It keeps you aware of your nose, your eye, your ear, your tongue, your hand. And, above all, poetry is compacted metaphor or simile."
    (Truth)
  5. "The most improbable tales can be made believable, if your reader, though his senses, feels certain that he stands at the middle of events. He cannot refuse, then, to participate."
    (On the importance of utilizing sense memory to evoke imagery)
  6. "I am many things that America has been in my time. I had enough sense to keep moving, learning, growing. And I have never reviled or turned my back on the things I grew out of."
    (On childhood loves/interests, particularly authors & stories)
  7. "We all need someone higher, wiser, older to tell us we're not crazy after all, that what we're doing is all right. All right, hell, fine!"
    (On having a mentor)
  8. "After all, isn't that what life is all about, the ability to go around back and come up inside other people's heads to look out at the damned fool miracle and say: oh, so that's how you see it!?"
    (On Being John Malkovitch...kidding!)
  9. "As soon as things get difficult, I walk away. That's the great secret of creativity. You treat ideas like cats: you make them follow you."
    (On knowing when to back off)
  10. "I can only suggest that we indulge in made work, in false business, to keep from being bored. Or worse still we conceive the idea of working for money. The money becomes the object, the target, the end-all and be-all. This work, being important only as a means to an end, degenerates into boredom."
    (On writer's procrastination)
  11. "So we should not look down on work nor look down on the 45 out of 52 stories written in our first year as failures. To fail is to give up. But you are in the midst of a moving process. Nothing fails then. All goes on. Work is done. If good, you learn from it. If bad, you learn even more."
    (Keep trying)
  12. "He must ask himself, 'What do I really think of the world, what do I love, fear, hate?' and begin to pour this on paper.
    (Be honest with yourself, without thinking solely of an audience)
  13. "Remember: plot is no more than footprints left in the snow after your characters have run by on their way to incredible destinations. Plot is observed after the fact, not before. It cannot precede action. It is the chart that remains when action is through."
    (Characters first...write their actions & plot can flow forth)