Today I want to talk to you about a book that I've recently started reading that I find absolutely wonderful. It's called Zen in the Art of Writing: Essays on Creativity by Ray Bradbury. Now I know I'm probably coming late to the field on this one. I'm sure there are a lot of you out there who've already read this, as you've read a lot of Ray Bradbury's stuff. I'm sad to say I haven't read many of Ray Bradbury's stories, but the ones I have read I do like.
I think my favorite quote so far from this book is as follows: "If you are writing without zest, without gusto, without love, without fun, you are only half a writer."
That's good advice. If writing becomes mechanical for us, if all we're doing is keeping our eye on the commercial market and not pouring ourselves out onto the page, then writing loses its purpose. Writing is supposed to be a release, something we do because we enjoy it. For many of us, it is what we want to do or are doing for our livelihood. I won't deny that. But if you don't write what you enjoy, how are your readers going to enjoy the story with you?
Another part of the book that I like is this paragraph:
The history of each story, then, should read almost like a weather report: Hot today, cool tomorrow. This afternoon, burn down the house. Tomorrow, pour cold critical water upon the simmering coals. Time enough to think and cut and rewrite tomorrow. But today - explode - fly apart - disintegrate. The other six or seven drafts are going to be pure torture. So why not enjoy the first draft, int he hope that your joy will seek and find others in the world who, reading your story, will catch fire, too?
How many of us worry so much about our first drafts that we sit in agony as we write it, pondering each and every line as if to make sure it's perfect the first time through? Why can't we sit back and enjoy the ride, and worry about fixing it later when it comes time to write the second draft? Our job with our first draft is to paint the background for our story. Each subsequent edit and rewrite is just adding detail to the picture.
Ray Bradbury has a lot of good advice in this book. I can't wait to finish it and see what else he has to say.