Sunday, July 31, 2005

Dandelion Zen

Among other things, I have been reading Ray Bradbury's Zen in the Art of Writing. It's a great inspiring kick in the pants. Bradbury writes with such enthusiasm about writing, it's hard not to catch it too. His descriptions are lively and engaging. He describes stories like this:

"They run up and bite me on the leg -- I respond by writing down everything that goes on during the bite. When I finish, the idea lets go, and runs off."

Bradbury conveys well the excitement of creative work. He also tells great stories: meeting sideshowman Mr. Electrico who claimed to know him in another life or, feeding dimes into a pay typewriter to furiously type Farenheit 451. He also gets to the heart of what makes the struggle worthwhile:

"What is the greatest reward a writer can have? Isn't it that day 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."

Of course he's also distressingly sexist. It's always "he," always. I remember why I lost patience with him in later books. The Halloween Tree was terribly misogynistic. But I could not do without The October Country, or Dandelion Wine or Something Wicked This Way Comes. It's a pity though that he could never see the little girls who ran through the fields just as wildly as his beloved young boys.

In the end, it's the work that matters. As Bradbury writes, "Every morning I jump out of bed and step on a landmine. The landmine is me. After the explosion, I spend the rest of the day putting the pieces together. Now, it's your turn. Jump!"


Unknown said...

Another interesting piece by a writer writing about writing (wow, how overly redundant!) is A Message About Messages, by Ursula K. Le Guin. I think it should be required reading for all students of literature - and, really, for all professors, as well...

I wish, instead of looking for a message when we read a story, we could think, "Here's a door opening on a new world: what will I find there?"

C. Margery Kempe said...

That's a really good piece. I especially like her comment about kids not knowing that they want something until they're in the middle of reading it. Another good piece -- very straightforward, no nonsense -- on the process of writing is by Elizabeth Moon who has also written a terrific piece on writing and depression.