on March 24, 2004
"Zen in the Art of Writing" might not separate out into easy bullet-lists of suggestions the way many writing books do, but there are so many great ideas here. Word associations, letting things percolate through your mind, honestly editing your work... Bradbury couches everything in examples from his own life and work. He loads everything up with context. Perhaps most importantly, he lends his words a vibrancy, a poetry, a life that speaks far louder than any dry essay on writing ever could!
He talks of love and hate, and how emotions drive good writing. He speaks of work and relaxation, and how both are necessary at once. All of this in beautiful, easy-to-read language that you can easily cruise through in a day.
It's hard not to come away from this book without a sense of this man: a whimsical, driven, fire-breathing soul of wit and humor and great understanding. I normally have little interest at all in meeting famous people, but I wish that I could meet Mr. Bradbury. Certainly his work has inspired many a dreamer, and all writers of the fantastic owe him and his work a great debt.
I cannot recommend this writing book highly enough. If you're looking for dry suggestions to help you get published look elsewhere, but if you're looking for inspiration, this is the place to find it. The passion, energy, and enthusiasm that flow through the words are contagious. I cannot imagine a single author that could not be improved by reading this book.
on September 14, 2003
Zen in the Art of Writing is my favorite kind of writing book. One that doesn't tell you how to write, but how to be a writer. Those are the best kind. A collection of essays from various sources and points in his career, Bradbury gives us many glimpses into the kind of writer he is, touching on such subjects as how to keep and feed a Muse, where ideas come from and what it takes to be a writer.
You won't find any discussions of plot, character, pacing, etc. here. Instead you'll find inspiration, ideas, passion and a little bit of who Ray Bradbury is. Just like a story.
A few excerpts:
You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.
If you are writing without zest, without gusto, without love, without fun, you are only half a writer.
A good idea should worry us like a dog. We should not, in turn, worry it into the grave, smother it with intellect, pontificate it into snoozing, kill it with the death of a thousand analytical slices.
At heart, all good stories are the one kind of story, the story written by an individual [writer] from [her] individual truth.
Zen and the Art of Writing remains an excellent book for any artist to read. It would be almost impossible to not catch Bradbury's enthusiasm, running down the pages as it does. Again, just as in good fiction.
"... to gently lie and prove the lie true..."
This is the devastatingly accurate description of fiction writing provided by an accomplished master of the craft. Someone whom I have the utmost regard for, who has been entertaining us for decades and decades. And thankfully he has given us an inspirational guidebook to help spur our own creativity onward.
The tome to help release your own inner genius is called Zen in the Art of Writing, proselytized by the esteemed Ray Bradbury. Come, join the movement, let Bradbury make you a creator you were meant to be. Here's how...
All throughout Bradbury fills the reader with thoughts, tangents, and tips on writing. It is not a technical manual, he does not provide a laundry list of books or tools, but instead gives a steady stream of gospel. Read poetry, write everyday, just let yourself tell a story with no idea what the destination is, live at the library (not figuratively!), and don't be afraid to fail. What may sound like just plain old fashioned good advice, is actually ideas and practices most of us creative folks ignore. Constantly doing the grunt work, even if it seems to go nowhere fast, can and will result in tangible evidence of your ability.
To illustrate his mantras, Bradbury gives us many examples of where various and sundry short stories came from. The germ of these ideas are from anger over a magazine article, or a walk on the beach, or a truth about one of his ancestors, and so on and so on, ad infinitum. Bradbury would come up with a concept, and with religious devotion and a strict gripping schedule, force everything out of himself and onto the page. One short story a week was the internal demand that had to be met. And met it was.
Some of these morsels of intellect grew after awhile into full-length books, radio adventures, stage plays, television shows, and movies. Ideas expanding and zipping along in different directions, flipping characters onto their sides and playing with whatever reality was previously established. Bradbury never saw limits to what he was doing. He loves the idea and the creation of it. Where can you go? Everywhere.
A prime study of Bradbury's process is illustrated in the essay "Investing Dimes: Fahrenheit 451". How slapping dimes into a pay typewriter helped bring about this modern classic, all because rambunctious children wanted to be played with. Bradbury goes into great length to deconstruct how Fahrenheit 451, originally a short story before it found new life as his first novel in 1953, was translated years later into a stage play. Grabbing an idea about Captain Beatty, he created a new scene, neatly interjected into the first narrative. More flesh and bone is added, causing a new weaving of these character's lives. In a few short pages, we witness something new from the master and see how effortlessly he plugs it into what came before. A logical idea fully realized.
This is just a taste of the inspiration Bradbury serves. Zen in the Art of Writing, which started life as a collection of essays penned over decades and appearing in various publications, should be an essential read for all seeking a creative outlet. This volume brought Bradbury's fearless mindset to me. These tidbits of Bradbury wisdom cultivated a passion within, one Scoops Mental Propaganda helps unleash. In a funny fact, being a Zen book, and one authored by him, I was surprised we did not find each other earlier in life. And in another funny fact, this concept of Scoop now feels like it has always existed. Maybe it always has, but only in my head, and now it is spreading out all over the interwebs. If I can do this, you can.
So now we switch from the ethereal to the earthly.
Get writing. Right now. And don't stop. Ray says so.
P.S. Zen in the Art of Writing cover is copyright 2012 to Bantam Books. It is 158 pages in paperback.
on June 3, 2002
I recently picked up a copy of Ray Bradbury's "Zen in the Art of Writing", partly out of curiousity, and partly out of an initiative to re-focus my writing.
I can not say enough good things about this book. It is cheap, and it is a quick read. I finished it over the course of one weekend - a weekend that has re-defined my writing like no weekend has in a long time.
Whether you write songs, stories, or jot notes in your journal, this book will open up new possibilites. Even non-writers might benefit from some of the insights, particularly the one that discusses science fiction, problem solving and education.
And it isn't even anything overtly "brilliant". Some of what the author presents is simply common sense stuff that we tend to miss in our busy lives. I identified many parallels in my own life that related to the experiences described in this book, and I'm sure you will too. I also enjoyed the complete lack of mamby-pamby, feel-good new agey attitude that is prevalent in some writing and creativity guides.
on December 20, 2001
I've just started this book and I have already, by direct inspiration of Mr. Bradbury's examples, taken my earliest childhood dream and created a sci-fi story. In his book he gives simple approaches to inspiration. I often enjoy recounting certain life experiences to friends, (and strangers), but not until I read this book did I realize I'm sitting on an endless source of raw material to mold into speculative fiction- from my own memories.
I felt a bit like a parasite writer when a critic who read my first sci-fi mentioned that my story was "Ray Bradbury-ish". I scrambled to try to change my style for fear that someone would think that I'm trying to copy his style. When I read that much of his inspiration comes directly from the writings of other authors and poets I was relieved. I actually began writing another story that is almost the same as one of his more popular stories from the Martian Chronicles. Yet, I can confidently state that my story is still completely different.
I suddenly find myself with more story ideas than I can possibly write. This book is an absolute inspiration. Reading many of the technical "how to" books for writers has done nothing but make my brain smoke. There are stories all around me now- actually, they were always there. Suddenly I see. "Ahh. This is Zen."
on December 7, 2001
Zen in the Art of Writing is a collection of essays by Ray Bradbury. Ray Bradbury wrote them throughout his life between the years 1961 and 1986 to tell aspiring authors how to become great writers by using his methods.
Ray Bradbury has every right to write such a book. His many books have granted him fame throughout the United States. His book Fahrenheit 451 about censorship had such an impact that it is part of the curriculum in many public schools.
This book has good advice. He tells that "the first thing a writer should be is-excited." I could tell that he not only meant what he wrote, he followed it. It seems that each word was put on the paper in a splurge of excitement. That is the way he says all writers should write.
He explains the process of writing with three phrases: "Work", "Relaxation", and "Don't Think." He says to write at least a thousand words a day. This starts a habit that makes writing comfortable. The quantity of writing gives experience, which gives quality. Relaxing and not thinking about the writing allows the stories to flow naturally. The "Don't Think" is so you won't be thinking about gaining money or fame.
Bradbury succeeded in this book. He gave some excellent information for aspiring fiction writers to use, and inspired the reader to go and write a story of their own. This is a good book and is interesting enough to warrant a read even for non-writers.
on March 29, 2001
Although the whole book is excellent, the essay "On the Shoulders of Giants" is, for me, the most important part of Bradbury's message. Bradbury is not writing only about writing and the "creative process", he is also making a more personal argument against censorship and for the wisdom and understanding of children. In this time of debates over Harry Potter's place in the classroom and "zero-tolerance" policies that lead to children being suspended from school for pretending that a chicken nugget is a gun, it is so refreshing to read essays by a man who likes children, trusts children, and believes that children are capable of teaching adults a few things.
Bradbury, in the clever disguise of giving advice to beginning writers, also makes a powerful case for the legitimate literary value of science fiction, fantasy, and even cartoons and comic strips. My only small (very small) quibble with this is that he is more than likely preaching to the converted. Unfortunately, the message needs to be spread more widely.
on December 7, 2000
Dipping into the subconscious to pull out memories, dreams, and ideas for writing is the main theme of Ray Bradbury's book, Zen in the Art of Writing: Releasing the creative genius within you. Zen in the Art of Writing has no clear progression or organization, but is instead a collection of essays Bradbury has written over the years. Each "chapter" is a short story in itself, full of ideas and advice. Some include overlapping ideas; some are as similar as a dream and reality. All give methods for developing the "creative genius." One helpful tool that has worked for Bradbury thus far - word association - may help your writing if you have a creative block. Bradbury compiles lists of nouns, usually beginning with "the" as in "The Veldt," "The Skeleton," and others to use for titles. He then implements his own memories and thoughts to fill in the actual story. The book is full of interesting stories, but the advice in each chapter could be a little more direct. Bradbury often seems to just write about his books, which doesn't help the reader much. His writing style does help make it an enjoyable read, however. The writer having trouble developing story ideas will benefit from Zen in the Art of Writing. Bradbury's own experiences, stories, and style make this book approachable for anyone, and may give you enough know-how and advice to break out on your creative own and start writing about their own scenes from a memory.
on August 10, 2000
I'm calling this review What You'd Expect From Bradbury, and when I say You, I do mean You. It's typical Bradbury, which for me is heart-poundingly, jaw-droppingly, emotion producingly powerful. I think Bradbury's metaphor really communicates with me, tugs at my mind and heart. I find I'm not alone in this sentiment. However, I know it's also not universal. If you yawned your way through Dandelion Wine, then, alas, I fear this book is not for you. And if you are looking for a textbook on technique, with easy answers and sound-bite size "Tips," keep browsing, my friend, and good luck. But if you are looking for a book that can remind you WHY you took up writing to begin with, that can reawaken your passion for writing on those days when you feel like smashing in your word processor, that can express, as only Bradbury can, why are all so vain and foolish as to persue this ridiculous enterprise we call "writing," then grab this, buy it, snatch it up now, and put it where you'll find it when you need it.
on March 12, 1999
As a rule I find books that profess to "explain" the writing/creative process to be useless at best and numbing at worst. Bradbury, however, isn't interested in writing a "how-to" book. This is because he rightly considers the creative process to be impossible to neatly sum up or explain.
Still, this book doesn't mystify writing either. Bradbury reminds the reader/writer that the creative process is highly individual and that the best source that we have when we write is ourself: our memories, our experiences and our imagination, which allows us to take the stuff inside us and transform it into something fresh and new. His discussions of how he got the ideas for some of his stories (particularly fascinating to me because I had read all of them) are gems, offering insights that are fascinating in their own right and instructive to those examining their own methods of writing.
As a playwright, this book was an inspiration to me when I first read it several years ago, and it continues to be to this day. This is possibly the only book on writing that I would recommend to anyone who is a writer who thinks he/she might want to be one.