A writing friend gave me the book Zen in the Art of Writing, by Ray Bradbury. This is a collection of essays written by one of the cornerstone Science Fiction authors. In it, he retells part of his history as a child and how his life experiences ended up in his writing. He gives many examples on how he came up with his stories. Intermixed with the stories, the ideas, bits of his autobiography, are lines of exquisite accurateness regarding art and writing. For a few posts, I’m going to review his book, list a couple of his ideas, and share some of my own thoughts.
One of the first questions he asks the reader is, “What does writing teach us?” He answers, “…it reminds us that we are alive and that it is a gift and a privilege, not a right. We must earn life once it has been awarded us. Life asks for rewards back because it has favored us with animation. Second, writing is survival. Any art, any good work, of course, is that. Not to write, for many of us, is to die.” I think that all of art does this. By creating, whether we share it with others or not, is part of expressing ourselves on earth. Once we have found a medium, and we begin to make sense of the emotions and the gifts that come from creating, we become, in a way, addicted. We like where our art takes us, how we feel when we’re creating, collaborating, and sharing with others is an option and brings a different dimension to what we do. It becomes our outlet, a way for us to make sense of ourselves and our world.
“If you are writing without zest, without gusto, without love, without fun, you are only half a writer. It means you are so busy keeping one eye on the commercial market…that you are not being yourself. You don’t even know yourself. For the first thing a writer should be is—excited.” There are things that we love, that we hate, that we have strong opinions about, and these are what we use to fuel our writing. Without this burning of love/hate/injustices/wrongs/passions, then we write not from our whole selves, but from only a fraction. In my experience, the writing/art then appears contrived. To write full-out, with that love/hate burning in our veins is the truest path to creating. Anything less than that and Bradbury doesn’t believe it’s worth writing, or reading.
Often, when we first dip into our creativity, we might be tentative. With some practice and some study, it becomes easier and then the passion shines through. Occasionally, we get bogged down with other things in life that might feed our Muse, give us fodder to write or to paint, but only after we see our way clear. Sometimes we can use our art to steer our way through. A catharsis that unloads the garbage, clears the way, so that we can move forward and again engage with our medium in a playful way, perhaps a bit frantic, but not with the desperation of seeking relief from the tides of life. Though there’s nothing wrong with relief seeking, it just flavors our work differently.
There has been work that has come from my love of things, and my extreme dislike of particular pieces of reality. I have let my writing go for too long of a time, and have found the results lacking. I’ve written without being fully present, and I’ve stayed awake for hours as the story poured from me. There is much that drives my creativity. You can view a bit of it on my website: www.myjoyenterprises.com
How is it that you create? Are the flames of love/hate/passion what drive you, is this the language of your Muse?