Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury

Illustrated Man and Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury

I have admired Ray Bradbury’s writing for several decades now, so it was natural that I would love Zen in the Art of Writing: Essays on CreativityBradbury always writes from the heart, and this collection of writing advice is no exception. Here’s what I’m talking about:

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

Zest. Gusto. How rarely one hears these words used. How rarely do we see people living, or for that matter, creating by them. Yet if I were asked to name the most important items in a writer’s make-up, the things that shape his materials and rush him along the road to where he wants to go, I could only warn him to look to his zest, see to his gusto.

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.

Bradbury’s essays shine with energy, joy, and writerly encouragement. In short, they have zest and gusto. Reading Zen in the Art of Writing is like having your own personal writing cheerleader. Bradbury comes across so personable, so friendly, so ordinary, that you come to believe that you–an ordinary person yourself–could actually write something worth reading.

Bradbury encourages the writer to mine the deep caverns of childhood memories, to make lists of nouns that resonate in the chambers of the soul, and to create titles that spark a story.

Essays include:

  • Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury“The Joy of Writing” – 1973
  • “Run Fast, Stand Still, or The Thing at the Top of the Stairs, or New Ghosts from Old Minds” – 1986
  • “How to Keep and Feed a Muse” – 1961
  • “Drunk, and in Charge of a Bicycle” – 1980
  • “Investing Dimes: Fahrenheit 451” – 1982
  • “Just This Side of Byzantium: Dandelion Wine” – 1974
  • “The Long Road to Mars” – 1990
  • “On the Shoulders of Giants…” – 1939, re-edited in 1980
  • “The Secret Mind” – 1965
  • “Shooting Haiku in a Barrel” – 1982
  • “Zen in the Art of Writing” – 1973

I’ll be re-reading this book again and again as I try to keep and feed my own writing muse. If the writing flame in you has become an ember, or if you’re trying to get the fire going for the first time, this slim volume of essays will act like oxygen and turn that desire into an inferno of creativity.

Zen in the Art of Writing: Essays on Creativity by Ray Bradbury
Santa Barbara: Joshua Odell Editions, 1994
Print length: 176 pages

Deacon Nick

Nick Senger is a husband, a father of four, and a Catholic school teacher, vice principal and technology coordinator. He taught junior high literature and writing for over 25 years, and has been a Catholic school educator since 1990. In 2001 he was named a Distinguished Teacher of the Year by the National Catholic Education Association.

2 Responses

  1. Jay says:

    I remember reading some of the essays in this book in the downtown Indianapolis library many years back; it made me think “even I could be a writer.” 🙂 I’ve read a ton of Bradbury stories over the years and still have a ton to go, for which I’m thankful. I am also blessed to have one of Ray’s biographers as a member of a book club/short story reading group I formed at work – we often get to hear from him what Bradbury thought of the many authors we read. IUPUI University here in Indy is also the home of the “Center for Ray Bradbury Studies.” The books you pictured above are two of my favorites, along with of course Farenheit 451 and The Martian Chronicles.

    • Deacon Nick says:

      Wow, what a blessing to have his biographer in your group! I have several Bradbury anthologies on my Kindle, and I’m planning on making next year a “Bradbury Year” for the Deal Me In challenge. My all-time favorite Bradbury book is Something Wicked This Way Comes–one of his most powerful, I think.

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