Ray Bradbury’s Zen

Ray Bradbury notes in the Zen in the Art of Writing, “The true test is in the doing.” The doing in my case is the slow unfolding of this blog. The unfolding of my own writing and new creative paths that we all take. This book is a reminder of the process involved in creating and provides a perspective from someone who has put down on paper millions upon millions of words in all forms that stories take. The reminder is that we must put in the work, and continue to put in the work, even when faced with challenges, both internal and external. Ray’s solution to many of the woes of a writer is to write:

“One-thousand or two-thousand words every day for the next twenty years. At the start, you might shoot for one short story a week, fifty-two stories a year, for five years. You will have to write and put away or burn a lot of material before you are comfortable in this medium. You might as well start now and get the necessary work done.”

He goes on to say:

“The artist must work so hard, so long, that a brain develops and lives, all of itself, in his fingers.”

It’s something I struggle with, and a lot of creative types like myself, struggle with. The willingness to sit down and put in the work required. Morning pages has been a great start but here, on this page, is where the work is needed.  This book is a reminder to find the source of your own creativity. The subconscious mind that lives within us all that we are unwilling to let out. The stories of childhood that exist, but perhaps are locked away, behind a door that’s key rests in our firm grip. We are unwilling to simply unlock that door and share the stories for a long list of reasons with insecurity and fear at the core of many of them.

Reading a book like this reminds me to find my true inspirations and grab hold of those allowing the words to flow.  Ray recounts his own inspirations:

“I do wish to run, seize this greatest time in all the history of man to be alive, stuff my senses with it, eye it, touch it, listen to it, smell it, taste it, and hope that others will run with me, pursuing and pursued by ideas and ideas-made machines.”

He delves even further into his inspirations by recalling the things that stuck with him into adulthood:

“I was in love, then, with monsters and skeletons and circuses and carnivals and dinosaurs and, at last, the red planet, Mars. From these primitive bricks I have built a life and a career. By my staying in love with all of these amazing things, all of the good things in my existence have come about. … In other words, I was not embarrassed at circuses.”

And there is the truth of the matter. Work hard and allow our own inspirations to shine forth. Always asking the question about why we are embarrassed to like or do the things we do? The list of things I love is long and slowly but surely I’m peeling away those layers of dust and grime to reveal them once again to myself. I encourage you to start looking at your own inner passions and ask yourself why not share it with the world? What, deep inside, is preventing you from sharing?

Consider Ray Bradbury next time, who made a living recounting stories of his childhood for his entire life. He wrote about all of the things he loved as a child, that many of us also loved, and yet are unwilling to write about or share.

He reminds us that the story we have withi is unique to us and that’s what needs to be uncovered:

“What are we trying to uncover in this flow? The one person irreplaceable to the world, of which there is no duplicate. You. As there was only one Shakespeare, Molière, Dr. Johnson, so you are that precious commodity, the individual man, the man we all democratically proclaim, but who, so often, gets lost, or loses himself, in the shuffle.”

The essays presented in this book take you through the life of Ray Bradbury and his inspiration behind many of the stories. The essay entitled Zen in the Art of Writing is the one that connected most with me with many of the quotes sourced directly. Ray understood the need for both the work but also the necessity of connection to our own passions.

The title stuck out to me because, well, Zen was right there. And it struck me in Ray’s words that his zen is in writing. He finds his own sense of presence while writing and doesn’t have to think about it but rather allows the words to flow from his fingers. Something that writers are familiar, or any creative type for that matter, when we are able to find that flow. My take away is the need to move beyond just the morning pages and write. Here, in my notebook, anywhere. Write to reconnect with those passions and stories I have hidden away and slowly allow them to become uncovered. This is a good first start. What is your next step?


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