Writing Advice: Zen in the Art of Writing – Ray Bradbury – Final Part.

Please click here to read Zen in The Art of Writing Part 1 and click here to read Zen in the Art of Writing Part 2.

Zen in the Art of Writing.

We all would like to find Zen in the Art of writing. Sometimes it can be a frustrating or even elusive process that can seem challenging and even daunting to some. However, Bradbury writes that the three main ideas you need to remember when writing are: WORK, RELAXATION and DON’T THINK. But how would those help you find Zen in the art of writing, I hear you ask?

WORK doesn’t sound like a Zen idea. It conjures up images of effort, sweat and exhaustion. However, Bradbury believes you can find Zen in ‘WORK’ by instead of being a slave to it, striving to become its partner, “Once you are really a co-sharer of existence with your work, that word will lose its repellent aspects”. Often we think of work as something we need to feel guilty about if we are not doing it, or on the other hand, we can feel exhausted and fed-up if we are working too much. Work can be a means to an end, often work is just a process we go through to make money, “The money becomes the object, the target, the end-all and be-all”. If that’s all it is then work degenerates into boredom because it is only a means to an end. So, don’t frame your work or be creative for the sole purpose of making money or fame and fortune. Those are great and a happy by-product of your work but Bradbury believes that you, the writer, who is curious about creativity, actually wants to “make contact with that thing in yourself that is truly original. You want fame and fortune, yes, but only as a reward for work well and truly done. Notoriety and a fat bank balance must come after everything is finished and done”. That means that while writing and creating they shouldn’t really be a factor in the process but an after-thought. As I have written before, you must be authentic, write for the joy of writing and the rest will come. Often the greatest reward a writer can have, although being paid for your art is nice, is when, “someone rushes up to you, his face bursting with honesty, his eyes afire with admiration and cries, “That new story of yours was fine, really wonderful!”. At that moment the money and the work all seem worthwhile as you have touched a person who has seen and felt something from your writing, they have enjoyed what you have created and reacted to it.

Each of you, curious about creativity, wants to make contact with the thing in yourself that is truly original.

-Ray Bradbury

Bradbury believes that once we have made a partner of work and not dwelled on whether work will make us money or make us famous but rather on the art of writing itself and the joy of weaving stories, then what comes next is RELAXATION. The ‘WORK’ becomes less like ‘WORK’ and we settle into a happy rhythm. “The mechanical begins to fall away. The body begins to take over. The guard goes down. What happens then? RELAXATION”. We relax into our creativity and through that the muse can flow more freely and there is less pressure on you. You are creating for the beauty of it, for yourself, which lets the originality and authenticity come through and thus improves your writing.

‘The mechanical begins to fall away. The body begins to take over. The guard goes down. What happens then? RELAXATION’.

-Ray Bradbury

The last idea that Bradbury encourages writers to take on is ‘DON’T THINK’. Bradbury is not telling you to not think at all, obviously some effort has to go into creating a story but to not OVERTHINK. Get what you want to down on paper, let it flow, you can edit it later, let the joy of writing flow. remember when you were a child and you just wrote whatever came to mind, let your imagination go back to that place without judgement or fear and create. This goes hand in hand with the RELAXATION, not overthinking leads to more relaxation which leads to more creativity and in turn more ‘WORK’. I hear your scoffs, and Bradbury has an answer for you, ”Impossible! you say. How can you work and relax? How can you create and not be a nervous wreck? It can be done. It is done, every day of every week of every year. Athletes do it. painters do it. Mountain climbers do it. Zen Buddhists…do it. Even I do it. And if even I can do it, as you are probably hissing now, through clenched teeth, YOU can do it to!”.

WORK, RELAXATION, DON’T THINK are not mutually exclusive, they should be used simultaneously. They naturally flow into one another as each facilitates they other. ‘ For if one works, one finally relaxes and stops thinking’. True creation occurs then and only then’. That’s true of this process anyway around, if you don’t over think, you will relax and work will come easier. If you relax, you won’t over think and then work will become easier. These are Bradbury’s three tools to help us find Zen in the Art of writing. A kind of mantra if you will. A writer can got lost on their creative journey, “Through wanting literary fame too quickly. From wanting money too soon. If only we could remember, fame and money are gifts to be given us only after we have gifted the world our best, our lonely, our individual truths”. Writing comes from you, from your experiences and perspectives of the world, “There is only one type of story in the world. Your story”. So WORK on that and DON’T THINK so you can RELAX into your creativity. As Bradbury says, “The time will come when your characters will write your stories for you, when your emotions, free of literacy cant and commercial bias, will blast the page and tell the truth. Remember: Plot is no more than foot prints left in the snow AFTER your characters have run by on their way to incredible destinations. PLOT is observed after the fact rather than before. It cannot precede action. It is the chart that remains when action is through. That is all PLOT ever should be. It is human desire let run, running, and reaching a goal, It cannot be mechanical. it can only be dynamic. So, stand aside, forget targets, let the characters, your fingers, body, blood and heart DO”.

‘It is wise a writer who knows his own subconscious.’ And not only knows it but lets it speak of the world as it and it alone has sensed it and shaped it to its own truth’.

-Ray Bradbury

So if we can consider everything we have learnt from Bradbury and his ideas and ways to find Zen in the art of writing we can find one overarching theme and the only thing left to do is give the last word to the man himself. ‘The true test is in the doing. Be pragmatic, then. If you’re not happy with the way your writing has gone, you might give my method a try. If you do, i think you might easily find a new definition for WORK. And the word is LOVE’.

I hope you have enjoyed this three part series on ‘The Art of Zen in Writing’.

Purchase the book here if you would like to own it yourself.

If you enjoyed this post, do not forget to like and subscribe for more. Maybe even consider becoming a Patron.

Writing Advice: Zen in the Art of Writing – Ray Bradbury -Part 2.

Please click here to read Zen in The Art of Writing Part 1.

Our own subconscious: The Muse.

Getting in touch with your Muse often conjures images of Greek goddesses with flowing locks sparking inspiration within the artist. As we all know, from time to time, getting in touch with your muse can be a bit hit or miss. Sometimes The Muse will visit you and you will have weeks of prolific work, at other times The Muse will be reluctant to show herself , flighty and unco-operative, leaving the writer at a loss. The Muse, or what I will choose to substitute as ‘Creativity’, can often evades us when we look too hard for it. When we try too hard to be the next Dickins, Wilde or Woolfe, creativity is stifled because we are not speaking with our own truth, our own experience.

Art will fly if held too lightly,

Art will die if held too tightly,

Lightly, Tightly, how do I know,

Whether I’m holding or letting Art go?

For ‘Art’ substitute, if you wish, ‘Creativity’ or ‘The Subconscious’ or ‘Heat’ or whatever the word is for what happens when you spin like a fire-wheel and a story ‘happens’.

-Ray Bradbury

Bradbury believes that we must feed our Muse/Creativity the same way that the body is fed and then grows over time. Everything we experience ‘sounds, sights, smells, tastes and textures of people, animals, landscapes, events, large and small…impressions and experiences and our reactions to them’, are kept within you and your subconscious and feed your Muse/Creativity. Bradbury believes that the subconscious is the core of the individual and where originality and creativity stem from. Each individual has experienced life differently, ‘no man sees the same events in the same order, in his life. One man sees death younger than another, one man knows love more quickly than another’ and onwards it goes making each individual an original. So writers must harness their own experience and originality tucked away in their subconscious to imbue their writing with their own truth, this will make their writing original and aid creativity. Bradbury believes that we all have it in us and , ‘All that is most original lies in wait for us to summon it forth’ that often we are looking outwards for inspiration that we miss what is already inside us.

When people ask me where I get my ideas, I laugh. How strange -we’re so busy looking out, to find ways and means, we forget to look in.

-Ray Bradbury

Bradbury also advises feeding your creativity not only with your own experience of the world but also by consuming the experiences and knowledge of others, often a lot of what we read or consume is thrust upon us, so we can make a conscious effort to consume what will be a healthy diet for our Muse/Creativity;

  1. Poetry
  2. Short Stories
  3. Novels
  4. Essays

Bradbury encourages writers to read ‘authors who write the way you hope to write, those who think the way you would like to think’ but Bradbury is very careful to stress that you should also, ‘ Read those who do not think or write as you want to write and so be stimulated in directions you might not take for years’. What he is saying is read extensively, keep an open mind to everything and make your own critically, well thought out decisions about what you consume. Often creativity can be sparked by not only the good but also the bad and indifferent.

What else can you we learn from Ray Bradbury?

Find out in Part 3, coming soon!

Purchase the book here if you would like to own it yourself.

If you enjoyed this post, do not forget to like and subscribe for more. Maybe even consider becoming a Patron.

Writing Advice: Zen in the Art of Writing – Ray Bradbury -Part 1.

‘Fahrenheit 451’ by Ray Bradbury is a classic book that you always find on those ‘100 books to read before you die’ lists. It’s a book that everyone has heard of and you feel like most people have read, either through force at school or self-improvement in adulthood. ‘Fahrenheit 451’ for me, had come up in recommendations, reading lists and in my peripheral reading vision, time and time again but it was only this year that I decided to read it.


Being an avid reader, I empathised with the main message of the book which is the importance of reading and, not just critical thinking, but independent thought. Loud flashy images, screens which fill entire living rooms and short meaningless entertainment have taken over Bradbury’s unspecified world and has distracted the populace to such a degree they no longer think for themselves or are interested in learning or growing in intellect. Obviously this is perfect for the government because they can now do what ever the heck they like and everyone will be too distracted and dumbed down to notice (Does this sound familiar?). Interestingly, Bradbury doesn’t lay the blame solely at the feet of the government as other dystopian literature does but also on the individual populace for allowing this to happen, as one of his characters states, “You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.” As many people have said before me, this book can be applied to our society as a cautionary tale, a reminder to not always buy into the new fad, to continue to read and think for yourself no matter the year, decade or century. Not to be drawn into the ‘tyranny of the masses’ and follow the crowd but to continue to think, discuss and analyse our society for its betterment. As you can now see, it has become one of my favourite books and Bradbury one of my favourite authors. I highly recommend it and quite frankly could go on and on about this book, but that’s not why we’re here today.

As all of us are at some point, I was looking for some guidance on how to continue to grow as a writer. Imagine my joy when I realized that Bradbury had actually written a book to help me do just that! So, who better for me to get advice from than one of my favourite authors!

Zen in the Art of Writing’ is a series of essays which concentrate on certain elements of his writing methods and inspiration. It has many pearls of wisdom and advice which I will be taking through into my writing and you might find useful too. So here are some top tips from Ray Bradbury on how to become a better writer.

Writing during difficult periods of your life

Bradbury believes that writing teaches us that we are alive. Who here cannot say that after a particularly good writing session they haven’t felt more alive and satisfied. He believes that through writing we can begin to understand that life is ‘a gift and a privilege, not a right’ and we must earn that because although our writing cannot prevent us from experiencing life’s negatives it can revitalise us despite everything around us. Therefore for Bradbury writing is not only about embracing life and exploring it but also about survival, as he says, ‘Not to write, for many of us, is to die’.

You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.

-Ray Bradbury

I very much empathised with this as there are days when I don’t write and in the back of my mind the page is always calling me. Often it can be satiated just by writing for 20 minutes, often there are days where the feeling takes me and I can write all day. Even Bradbury himself states that he becomes uneasy after even a day not writing and after three he starts going a bit loopy. The point is not to be too hard on yourself and to practice as often as you can but this can often be difficult if life is taking a downward turn. The key is to keeping going despite everything, Bradbury says,’ The smallest effort means to win’ against the world and not writing can mean that the ‘world would catch up with you and try to sicken you’. He believes that even ‘an hour’s writing is tonic’, it’s the little bit of poison that is taken to build immunity to life’s own venom. Writing makes sense of life, both the light and dark, it can help the reader and the writer to work through life’s horrors. As Bradbury says, ‘Who amongst us has not had a cancer-dead friend? Which family exists where some relative has not been maimed by the automobile?….The list is endless and crushing if we do not creatively oppose it.’ Now Bradbury may come across a little flippant here but he does go on to say that writing can be a cure, that although we never get over these things it can be a form of ‘therapy’ and that when life throws you a curve ball or a tragedy, ‘You must leap to set up your diving board and dive head first into your typewriter’. Obviously everyone is different and deals with life in a different way, some things in life hit harder than others, but writing as a form of working through your own feelings and extracting meaning from difficult situations is a workable theory. It may help us all to make sense of life and to push through our difficult periods and come out the other side.

Taking Joy in your work

I don’t think many of us need to be told to take joy in our work, it is inherent in the craft. Bradbury believes that all writers should harness this ‘Zest’ and ‘Gusto’ and imbue your work with it. Don’t be distracted by the commercial markets, what’s popular or the ‘avant-garde coterie’ because if you are, you are not being yourself and ‘without gusto, without love, without fun, you are only half a writer’. Take what annoys you, what you hate, what outrages you about society and use it in tandem with your enthusiasm to create. Bradbury tells of the numerous times he would walk around the neighborhood at night to think about his writing, only to be stopped by the police often enough that it birthed ‘The Pedestrian’. A story of a man who is arrested and study by government scientists because he prefers to look at ‘untelevised reality and breathing in un air-conditioned air’. Ideas and inspiration can also come from the things you love; objects, concepts, people. Use your enthusiasm for what you love and weave stories around them. Even the most unassuming of items can be sources of inspiration, a spider’s web, a scientific journal, a shoe. As Bradbury says, ‘ Ideas lie everywhere, like apples fallen and melting in the grass…’

The first thing a writer should be is excited. he should be a thing of fevers and enthusiasms…’

-Ray Bradbury

Bradbury’s gives his formula as this, ‘ What do you want more than anything in the world? What do you love? What do you hate? Find a character like yourself who will want something or not want something, with all his heart. Give him 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‘.

Bradbury also talks about how as writers, we should also use our ‘Gusto’ to help us to find joy even with the more technical side of writing. Grammar checking and drafting are not to most glamorous of tasks for the writer but Bradbury urges you to take ‘ joy in the first draft, in the hope that your joy will seek and find others in the world, who, reading your story, will catch fire too…’ That initial joy of getting it all down on paper will get you through the drafting and redrafting and will even help those that stumble with ‘grammatical tools and literary knowledge’. Passion is key, so use your ‘Zest’ and ‘Gusto’ to move you to find ideas, write and enjoy your craft.

What else can we learn from Ray Bradbury? Find out in Part 2, coming soon!

Purchase the book here if you would like to own it yourself.

If you enjoyed this post, do not forget to like and subscribe for more. Maybe even consider becoming a Patron.