- Paperback: 176 pages
- Publisher: Joshua Odell Editions (August 1, 1994)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1877741094
- ISBN-13: 978-1877741098
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.5 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 234 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #21,650 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Zen in the Art of Writing: Essays on Creativity 0th Edition
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This book will be an inspiration to any fan of Bradbury's work, and is highly recommended for any writer wishing to improve upon their craft.
So yeah, not my favorite read, but oh well.
Fans of Bradbury will delight in some of his recollections, such as writing Fahrenheit 451 in the basement of a public library on a pay typewriter (half hour for each dime you put in the box). I'm not his greatest fan myself. I remember enjoying Fahrentheit 451 but being disappointed by The Martian Chronicles. Of course, I was a science nerd at the time, and wanted my sf less fanciful than Bradbury often made his.
But books on writing by famous authors have two natural audiences: fans of the writer who want to know everything about him, and aspiring writers hoping to glean some useful advice or insight into the writer's art and craft. The former group are well served by this book. How about the latter?
I think they are too, by and large. The recurring message Bradbury offers to hopeful writers is this: write what you really care about, not what you think will sell or get you points with literature snobs. And, trust your subconscious to pull meaning and imagery out of the depths of your lived experience. Bradbury relates how he got most of his early story ideas by making a list of words that came to him: The Meadow, The Tow Chest, The Monster... Eventually, many of the words on his list percolated into story ideas. He also takes a very holistic view to inspiration. Instead of looking in specific places for ideas, he advises soaking up life as you live it, never knowing when something, having stewed, will re-appear as inspiration.
I like all this, and it's told in Bradbury's uniquely warm, exuberant, lyrical fashion.
However, I do take issue with one aspect of this book. In his quest to paint a picture of the writer as inspired artist, drawing on profound subconscious inspirations and remaining true to one's emotional compass, Bradbury makes it seem that success is nothing but inspiration and passion. He often describes writing a story in couple hours that sold immediately to a major magazine. This is not really a responsible image to give aspiring writers in 1990 (when this book was published), and it is even less so now. When Bradbury was starting his career, of course, the bar was a lot lower for publishing speculative fiction in the pulp magazines.
But there is more to it than that. There is a revealing remark in one of the essays in this book. Bradbury describes how he would typically write a short story on Monday, then spend the rest of the week revising it. This is getting closer to Edison's inspiration/perspiration quotient. While Bradbury waxes grandiose about the writer's vision, it turns out the nuts and bolts of the writer's craft occupied the bulk of his time, and was no doubt essential to his success.
With that caveat, I recommend this book to Bradbury fans or to any aspiring writer in a need of a breath of fresh air about why writing matters in the first place.