Jon's Reviews > Zen in the Art of Writing

Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury
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's review
Feb 27, 12

bookshelves: non-fiction, essay, poetry
Read from February 25 to 27, 2012, read count: 1

Every time I return to Bradbury it's a treat and I wonder why it took me so long to pick him up again. Well, it's nice to know the future holds more returns to Bradbury, so I'll probably keep reading him at the same pace.

Zen in the Art of Writing is more fun than anything else, which I think is central to Bradbury's point: if writing isn't in some way fun, then we might wanna reconsider our wish to write. Obviously this doesn't mean what you write must be fun, buoyant and void of difficulty - Bradbury's own work often probes the darkest aspects of humanity. But his essays show that you don't have to be depressed or depressing to write about difficulty. Writing should stem from lived experience, which (hopefully) contains the full range of emotion and endless opportunity for thought, inquiry and hypothesis. That Bradbury references his own stories and talks about his own 'successes' so much seems less personal hubris than it is talking about what he knows, rooting what he's talking about in his own lived experience. If there's ego there (and when isn't ego identifiable in an artist?), it is largely of a healthy variety.

Certainly this book has its short-comings. "Investing Dimes: Fahrenheit 451" was interesting, but felt shallower than many of the others. Its best moment was this: "Father had to choose between finishing a story or playing with the girls. I chose to play, of course, which endangered the family income." This sentence plays right into the overall point of this essay collection: life and love are most important, and good stories stem from both of those things.

"Just This Side of Byzantium: Dandelion Wine" was perhaps the least interesting essay for me. I don't think it said very much. Thankfully, it was short.

The last section of poems was nice and fun, but I wouldn't consider any of those poems really great poetry. But that seems hardly the point and it's a minor, even snooty, thing for me to even mention. The poems are fun and encouraging; for some people, even sappy (the whole collection has been criticized as such), but I find it a nice way to round out his point.

Bradbury's advice to writers is not what many are looking for. We often want lists & formulas, calculable, measurable, specific strategies to success. Bradbury's strategy is more philosophy than how-to guide. There's no tried and true method to success. He isn't really talking about the technical aspects of writing, he's talking about a lifestyle that cultivates creativity and authenticity. If you have the lifestyle the technical skill will come, the stories will come. It's encouraging stuff and a healthy reminder that writing should be fun, personal and done with love.
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Quotes Jon Liked

Ray Bradbury
“I take this continent with me into the grave.”
Ray Bradbury, Zen in the Art of Writing


Reading Progress

02/26/2012 page 79
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