In reading Ray Bradbury’s book, Zen in the Art of Writing, I find inspiration to keep writing as well as insight into how a famous author has come up with ideas that were built into stories, poems, plays, and novels. “…in the future I will relaxedly turn back to my secret mind to see what it has observed when I thought I was sitting this one out. We never sit anything out. We are cups, constantly and quietly being filled. The trick is, knowing how to tip ourselves over and let the beautiful stuff out.” Throughout the first part of the book, Bradbury gives away the secret that all through our lives our Muse, our subconscious, has been storing details, sensations, objects, and pieces of conversation so that we, as artists, can then draw upon this storehouse of goods in order to write, paint, photograph, sculpt, or sketch. There are many Zen sayings that have to do with filling ourselves up and then pouring ourselves out. When we begin to learn something new, we need to approach it as if it were the first time we have seen or heard of such a thing. In other words, with our cup empty. And when our cup is full, we dump it out on the page, the canvas, into the music, through our bodies in dance, or with combinations of ingredients when we create a meal.
Bradbury discusses WORK. In our society, there are all kinds of feelings that revolve around this word. Some people do a lot of it, others do hardly any at all. Many of us become obsessed by what it will bring us: cash, prestige, power, influence, a sense of being alive and contributing to something larger than ourselves. Interesting that Bradbury writes, “It is a lie to write in such a way as to be rewarded by money in the commercial market. It is a lie to write in such a way as to be rewarded by fame offered you by some snobbish quasi-literary group in the intellectual gazettes.” He means that we slant ourselves in order to sell to the commercial market. We recognize this by convincing ourselves that everyone is slanted. However, what he suggests instead, is that the fame and fortune can come only for work that is “well and truly done”. While creating, we are NOT to think of the audience or making money. If we do either, then we are liars. “What is the greatest reward a writer can have? …when someone rushes up to you, his face bursting with honesty, his eyes afire with admiration and cries, ‘That new story of yours was fine, really wonderful!’ Then and only then is writing worthwhile.” If we write with anything besides our Muse and our heart in mind, then we’re failing to be authentic.
“For there comes a time in the day’s occupations when old Money Writer falls so in love with an idea that he begins to gallop, steam, pant, rave, and write from the heart, in spite of himself.” So we move from WORK to RELAXATION to DON’T THINK, and around we go again. We move from mechanical thought to thinking through the heart.
Next, once both types of writers are working, the one that falls into the story, when the wall goes down and the heart opens, then RELAXATION happens. Lastly is DON’T THINK. Which, according to Bradbury, leads back to RELAXATION. According to this author, one could place these three signs in any order because, “eventually quantity will make up for quality.” “The artist must work so hard, so long, that a brain develops and lives, all by itself, in his fingers.” This explains the ‘quantity to quality’ idea. But don’t think that we, as artists, work just to work, that we have to put in thousands of words or paint hundreds of canvases. Bradbury tells us, “What we are trying to do is find a way to release the truth that lies in all of us. Isn’t it obvious by now that the more we talk of work, the closer we come to relaxation? Tenseness results from not knowing or giving up trying to know. Work, giving us experience, results in new confidence and eventually in relaxation. Suddenly, a natural rhythm is achieved.” We don’t create by trying hard, by working endless hours. We only do these things to become familiar with our medium and our Muse. Once there is familiarity, then there is relaxation. Once there is relaxation, then there is flow. The mind doesn’t interfere with what the fingers, or the Muse, are creating. That is when stories are made that has readers rushing up to us in a frenzy of thanks for putting words down in that order. But was it us? Or were we just the medium of the Muse?
I have put in my own hours, just as any writer has, and I’ve fallen in love with ideas, with characters, and with plots. There are many times that the walls have disappeared, and my heart bled on the page. If you’d like to view the results, there’s plenty to read on my website: www.myjoyenterprises.com
How do you create? Have you put in the work, and has it led to creating from the heart?