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Zen in the Art of Writing: Releasing the Creative Genius Within You Mass Market Paperback – April 1, 1992
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- Publisher : Bantam; Later Printing edition (April 1, 1992)
- Language : English
- Mass Market Paperback : 158 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0553296345
- ISBN-13 : 978-0553296341
- Item Weight : 3.17 ounces
- Dimensions : 4.17 x 0.49 x 6.88 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #481,934 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
About the author
Reviewed in the United States on January 23, 2023
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The true writer must stay true to himself and find his own voice. The writer must live life to the fullest. For the writer cannot be a good writer if he or she does not live life to the fullest. He or she must have gusto and zest and it will infect his or her writing. Or should I say it will infuse his or her writing.
The writer by requirement to survive must write every day. Some writers will write a whole story in one day. Other writers will do only a few pages. The main thing is to write. Like any other art and in this I do consider sports and dance art forms, it must be practiced every day. Writing everyday does not only make the writer better at his or her craft but rather writing cleanses the writers mind.
Along the way through these easy to read and equally entertaining chapters, Ray Bradbury will tell you about his writing experiences and over several good tidbits on how to boost creativity. One thing a writer must realize is that short stories or poems can become novels. Novels can turn into screenplays. Just because your work is rejected by one publisher does not mean it will not be accepted by another publisher. Remember you are not a failure at writing until you stop writing. Ray suggest writing every day even if you end up trashing 4/5 of what you write that one fifth is what will make it.
A couple of techniques that the beginning or struggling author might find useful are word lists and realizing that your characters are really alive. The word list is nothing more than a word association. You write down a word on a piece of paper and after you get enough of them start writing your own story. Don’t worry the subconscious will feed the rest . It is good to remember that when writing you should immediately write down your story. Just spit it out. Do not worry about editing or correcting the words just get the story out . Another technique is to create or discover the character and let the character run. Your character will run forward and write the story for you. All the aspiring author has to do is just narrate what was seen in the minds eye.
Poetry and screen writing have a lot in common. Whereas the novelist strive to write the word but ow sot need to condense words or turn a paragraph into a picture. As writer he was frustrated when he had to condense his writing by to thirds but it was done and it was a success. Poetry is a picture contained in a stanza or paragraph.
Writing is Zen. The author must find their voice and not be an imitation of others. There is only one you just like there is only Shakespeare. Do not write for money but rather work , don’t think and relax.
The book contents itself are nice, witty, and informative. But the quality of the physical product is not so good.
Reviewed in the United States 🇺🇸 on January 23, 2023
The book contents itself are nice, witty, and informative. But the quality of the physical product is not so good.
Bradbury reminds us, however, that passion burns in all directions. “Eveywhere you look in the literary cosmos, the great ones are busy loving and hating.” While the sun bubbles away in the sky the core of the earth gurgles beneath our feet.
So I finally settled on this: “…if you re 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, or one ear peeled for the avant-garde coterie, that you are not being yourself.”
“OMG, way to rub it in, Ray.” As an indie writer this line initially struck me as an evil thug stomping on a broken leg. Are you kidding me? Zest is all I have. I ooze zest. Is Bradbury really going to tell those of us who slog away in obscurity year after year that we’re just not zesty enough? We’re too focused on commercial success? Ha! Tell that to my wife.
The Internet, which I have increasingly come to see as the kind of evil alien you might find in a Bradbury novel, has turned the world of publishing on its head. Anybody can write. And anybody has the chance to be read.
But chance is not reality. And the great god of chance, in this case, has only grown in size and influence. The publisher has given way to the coder. The biased perception of the editor has given way to the even more biased but opaque ways of the algorithm. (One negative review on this site at the moment has close to 17,000 “helpfuls”, guaranteeing its prominence, and the helpful review doesn’t even reference the content of the book.)
Only one thing has remained constant: Them that has, gets. The branded writer has hundreds of reviews before a book is even released, much less read. The biggest names endorse the biggest names. The digital swarms follow the lead of the digital messiah to write the Tweet of the hit maker. “Kim likes it.” “Oprah loves it.” And did they just rummage around in the tumbling cage of fair chance to pull out the bingo number that they would take the time to consider? Not likely.
There has always been influence. But now the influence has been consolidated to the point where there is no hierarchy left. The tail of opinion is long but no longer substantial enough to have meaning, much less relevance.
And yet Bradbury has inspired me to trudge on. For, at the end of the day, it is obvious that Bradbury wrote for himself and for his characters. They were part of who he was. And maybe that’s ultimately where the zen comes in. Reality is an illusion. Calm the mind and find emptiness. Embrace it and it will bloom.
The titles of the last two poems in the book say it all: “Doing is Being,” and “We Have Our Arts So We Won’t Die of Truth.” Thank you, Ray Bradbury.
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1. The essays here span several decades, and yet Bradbury's writing style and tone of voice don't tend to change much. I guess he settled on his voice early on and it just stuck.
2. He talks about his own novels a lot - where the inspiration came from, what it was like to write the story - but he does so with the right modest:humblebrag ratio. In other words, it doesn't grate.
3. There's not a lot of highly usable info here. The central point is this: write more and you will get better. I'm not sure I agree. While it's true that the more you write, the better you will get at writing more, I think without feedback you might find that the writing is simply never improving. There's just more of it.
4. Bradbury lived in a time that has vanished - writers don't get the opportunities he had, and while he certainly worked to achieve his success, the path was not strewn with the obstacles that the writer of today must somehow get past.
5. Boy, he really wanted to get his poetry published somewhere! I didn't read much of it - I'm a poor judge of anything more free-form than a sonnet - but how this ended up here is a mystery.
So should you read this book? I picked it up for a few dollars, and it was probably worth the read. It motivated me to write, so there's that to go in the plus column, if nothing else.
I hadn’t come across this collection of essays aimed at other writers in the genre until a couple of weeks ago, when I happened on a post on the blog, ‘Books: Publishing, Reading, Writing’, about the blogger’s rereading of Zen in the Art of Writing. I was at once inspired to buy a copy.
More importantly, as a writer, I was inspired to read it. Ray Bradbury’s work is poetic, exciting, evocative, enthralling. So I assumed his ideas on writing would be as rewarding, and I was right.
The book consists of a series of dated essays that recount his experiences, influences, motivations and encounters as a writer. You will not find advice on technique or marketing, language or grammar, story structure or characterisation in these pages, although some of these topics are tangentially referred to along the way. This is a book about what it is to be a writer, what drives that urge to put words on paper, what matters to the author.
I’ve been writing fiction in various forms for more years than I care to consider. Without knowing it, I’ve approached my writing in the same way that Ray Bradbury approached his, except I lacked the luck to be writing in America at the time he started. It was the golden age of science fiction, when the reading public suddenly began to understand that science fiction, far from being a genre for kids who liked comic books, was and is actually a field full of ideas, questions and possible solutions. I was interested to note that Ray advises his readers of this book to acquire a copy of another of my favourite writing books; ‘Becoming a Writer’ by Dorothea Brande. Along with the more recent work by Stephen King, ‘On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft’, these are the only books I urge would-be authors to read before they attempt their first work.
Reading this book has re-ignited my early enthusiasm for writing. Not that I ever lost the urge, but that, over the years, the motivation can dim a little. Ray’s words of wisdom, written in his effortlessly poetic style, empower authors with his idea that the prime emotion you should feel when writing is excitement. If you feel this, the reader will be infected with the same exhilaration. And, it’s true. The emotional state of the writer seeps onto the page, no matter what the scene describes, how the character feels. It is the writer’s state of mind that creeps into the mind of the reader. That’s why honesty is fundamental to good fiction. Any attempt to dupe the reader with an author’s false feelings will seep onto the page and undo that effort.
I’m so pleased I came across this book. I wish I’d read it earlier. It’s good to know that, instinctively, I’ve been following Ray Bradbury’s advice and suggestions for much of my writing life, but reading this book has inspired me to renew my approach to the work of the author, to make sure I enjoy the work and pass on my enthusiasm to my readers. Thank you Ray Bradbury. I’ll now revisit your back catalogue and find the works of yours I didn’t read as a young man and see how many I can read now that I’m older.
This is very much a book about Bradbury’s unique interpretation of what made him tick as a writer. However, although it may not be laid-out in the format of a guide to writing, I found it brimming with ideas on how to approach everything from note-taking, to coping mechanisms when one’s muse chooses not to play fair. In fact, the chapter dedicated to handling a muse, with its somewhat whimsical look at the psyche of a writer, was my favourite.
Another of the delights of this book, is that Bradbury is generous both in his praise of the writers he admires, and doesn’t hesitate to recommend specific books. His honesty and enthusiasm regarding the highs and lows of his experience of a writer’s lot, are refreshingly explained without any hint of guile, or bile!
A book that I read in an evening, but one that I have no doubt I’ll re-visit at some point. A very good read.
In this book Ray talks of the creative process. The book is actually a collection of essays written over a period of over twenty years. Though he describes creativity directed at the process of writing, the lessons and ideas have a much broader relevance.
Ray reveals some how-to's including the simple idea of capturing key words to describe ideas in a notebook. He describes how sometimes these key words have lay dormant in his notebook, even for decades, before they have been the spark for a story, almost as if as keys they waited for him to realise the ideas they represented.
For me however the main feature revealed is the immense passion associated with creativity. The book exudes this passion through the use of sometimes exquisite language which captures the essence of a life of creative change.
"I have not so much thought my way through life, as done things and found out what it was and who I was after doing it."
On later realising why he chose particular names for characters in a story, he writes "What a sly thing my subconscious was to name them thus. And not to tell me,"
On ideas he writes "I'd thought that you could beat, pummel and thrash an idea into existence. Under such treatment, of course any decent idea folds up its paws, turns on its back, fixes its eyes on eternity and dies."
A book that captures something of the real magic of creativity