Whether something was written in the 1200s or in the past millennia, great writers will always leave their mark to be remembered by in future years to come. Ray Bradbury was an amazing writer who will always be remembered for his writing: for stories such as Fahrenheit 451 and The Martian Chronicles. Aside from writing novels and short stories, he wrote various essays that were collected and put together into a volume in 1996 and titled Zen in the Art of Writing. This collection of eleven essays, ranging from the years 1961 to 1990, focuses on Bradbury’s life, how he began his career as a writer, and contains various bits of helpful tips for writers of the future to pursue and conquer their dreams.
In just his preface alone, Bradbury has many inspirational tips for writers everywhere. “First and foremost, it reminds us that we are alive and that it is a gift and a privilege, not a right” (Bradbury XII), “We must take arms each and every day, perhaps knowing that the battle cannot be entirely won, but fight we must, if only a gentle bout” (Bradbury XII), and “You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you” (Bradbury XIII) are but a few encouraging words from the writer within the first few pages of his collection. These sentences alone can grasp a reader’s attention and draw him or her into Bradbury’s world.
Now Bradbury may seem conceded and overconfident of himself at times as a reader reads his works, but Bradbury was a very talented man and knew how to play with words and form them into meaningful and beautiful sentences. Readers should keep an open mind when reading his essays: he is simply conveying what he went through as a beginning writer and what he suggests to writers who wish to have their name known.
Each essay is full of amazing pieces of advice from a man who wrote every day for most of his life. He was a writer who truly went through every awful happening writers try desperately to avoid and every wonderful occurrence that every writer dreams of having. He had multiple rejections from multiple companies and magazines before he was published. He met people who would help him accomplish great things. He was a writer both inside and out.
Most of Bradbury’s advice to both novice and experienced writers are helpful suggestions that can work in both a writing career and life itself. Anyone in the arts knows to expect rejection, but accepting rejection is a wonderful tool because it not only teaches people to accept bad news, but it also teaches people how to keep trying and persevere to get better. A letter he received from the famous historian Bernard Berenson taught him how everyone needs someone cheering him or her on because everyone is his or her own worst critic. “I needed that approval. 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!” (Bradbury 50).
It is difficult to pick and choose the best pieces of advice Bradbury has to offer, but then again, every reader will take away something different after finishing Zen in the Art of Writing. This is a book that should be shared with others for encouragement. Like the aforementioned quotes, there are even more wonderful quotes Bradbury had to share with others. “Do we want the stars? We can have them. Can we borrow cups of fire from the sun? We can and must and light the world” (Bradbury 106). “Ours is a culture and a time immensely rich in trash as it is in treasures. Sometimes it is a little hard to tell the trash from the treasure, so we hold back, afraid to declare ourselves… we should not fear to be seen in strange company” (Bradbury 39). But perhaps, one of the best quotes in the entire book that everyone, especially writers, should remember is this: “Do not, for the vanity of intellectual publications, turn away from what you are — the material within you which makes you individual and, therefore, indispensable to others” (Bradbury 42).
Originally published at www.examiner.com on May 29, 2015.