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  • August 13th, 2008 | 6:46 AM
Wednesday Writing Tip - Ray Bradbury

This week's writing tip comes from the little gem of a book, Zen in the Art of Writing, by Ray Bradbury. It is a collection of short essays on Bradbury's life as a writer. Some of it harkens back to a time in writing that we can't relate to anymore, the pulps, but much of it is just about being a living, breathing writer and finding your way in the world. You don't have to read or write science fiction to get a lot out of this book.

Here, a snippet, from his chapter on how to keep and feed a muse.

"Read poetry every day of your life. Poetry is good because if 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 eyes, your ear, your tongue, your hand. And above all, poetry is compacted metaphor or simile. Such metaphors, like Japanese paper flowers, may expand outward into gigantic shapes. Ideas lie everywhere through the poetry books, yet how rarely have I herd short story teachers recommending them for browsing."

(Tags: )
There are so many stories only you can tell.Tell them, please.


( 9 comments — Leave comment )
August 13th, 2008 02:44 pm (UTC)
When Phil Farmer was giving me writing advice back in the 1980's, he recommended I concentrate heavily on three subjects if I wanted to write good science fiction: biology, anthropology, and classic poetry.
August 13th, 2008 02:56 pm (UTC)
Sounds like a perfect combo for me. Bradbury also recommended essays of all kinds.
August 13th, 2008 02:50 pm (UTC)
Just wanted I needed to read this morning. Thanks, Susan (and Ray Bradbury .. but you for opening the page)
August 13th, 2008 02:55 pm (UTC)
Glad I could help. I needed the reminder too.
August 13th, 2008 03:05 pm (UTC)
I would rarely read poetry if it didn't get sent to me every morning- one can subscribe to the poetry and literary history of the day sent by Garrison Keillor- and the address is: newsletter@americanpublicmedia.org (it is called The Writer's Almanac if that doesn't work)
August 14th, 2008 04:23 pm (UTC)
That's a great idea! Thanks for sharing.
August 13th, 2008 04:24 pm (UTC)
I read Bradbury's book and liked it very much, but--if I remember correctly--it didn't quite click with the writer that I am (I hope!). I seem to need structure and practical advice in my writing books and, while I admire Bradbury very much, when I step onto the path he talks about I feel too wobbly and nebulous. (It's been a while since I read it, so I may be getting things wrong here.) Also, while every now and then I find a poem that really hits me (like your whole book, Susan!), poetry is not something I can just sit and read. Where are the 600 pages of my favorite characters? :)

I do think he's right, really--having watched my son's response to the poetry he's read--it is an entirely different kind of reading, and it lets your brain use different, important synapses, I think.

Maybe later in life for me? Or maybe I passed that point already? :)
August 14th, 2008 04:31 pm (UTC)
I have to laugh because you are right - he does make me feel a bit wobbly when I read that book. Sort of like I have had too much to drink.

What I took away from the book as a whole was that there was no one way to write or work and that was okay. I need to be reminded of that A LOT.

As for poetry, I can't read page after page after page. But I can read one poem. I love Julie's tip above to get a poem a day in your email via Garrison Keillor.
(Deleted comment)
August 14th, 2008 04:32 pm (UTC)
Oh don't you love it when the Universe does that for you! :-)
( 9 comments — Leave comment )

Who am I?I was born on the Cancer/Leo cusp and share a birthday with Ernest Hemingway and Robin Williams. The similarities don't stop there as I can go from depressed to ecstatic without ever passing go. I feel scared most of the time though my friends call me brave and I find it easier to believe in my friends than to believe in my own abilities to make what I want out of my life.

Who am I? A wife, a mother, a daughter, and even, gulp, a grandmother.

Who am I? A writer who never gets tired of playing with words, even when the words are hard to find. A writer of books for children and articles for grown-ups and many things in-between.

Who am I? A motivational speaker, writing instructor, workshop leader and full-time follower of dreams.

Who am I? Read and find out.

Susan Taylor Brown

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"Successful writers are not the ones who write the best sentences. They are the ones who keep writing. They are the ones who discover what is most important and strangest and most pleasurable in themselves, and keep believing in the value of their work, despite the difficulties."
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