Some time ago, I bought Ray Bradbury’s Zen in the Art of Writing, but I’ve only just now begun to read it, a belated appreciation. It is, as far as I’ve gotten, relentlessly pragmatic and positive, focused on a basic principle that resonates with me, which is the discipline of writing. He said, “I wrote at least a thousand words a day every day from the age of twelve on.”
I know writers who don’t need this kind of regimental approach, who can lay dormant for a time, then emerge with a fully-fledged story after a short, frenzied bout of writing. I am not that writer, and so it is easier for me to relate to the Bradbury approach. And there’s this:
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, or one ear peeled for the avant-garde coterie, that you are not being yourself.
It’s the second piece of the damning part that I love, the part about the avant-garde coterie, which seems to me to address the foibles of the literary crew as much as referencing the commercial market addresses the foibles of the genre crowd. There are dangers across the spectrum of writing, and all of them paint a false self, making the real self shrivel behind the artifice.
I’m taking up my novel again after a longish period of reflection and recalibration and planning, and I aim to do so with zest and gusto. RIP Bradbury. Here’s a lovely appreciation by Neil Gaiman.