Just finished reading Ray Bradbury's writing essays from his Zen in the Art of Writing and feel like I have been given my marching orders for Bradbury's Book Camp for Writers. Zen is a short but powerful book and lights a fire under you with his passion and zest for life and writing. There are so many snippets I underlined and wrote down, it is hard to know where to start.
Everything you have ever experienced in life goes into your subconscious as food for your muse. How do you tap into that food to help you grow as a writer. Bradbury kept a book full of lists of nouns; words that reminded him of experiences. He'd refer to the list and a word or collection of words would spark an idea such as the ones that lead him to write Something Wicked This Way Comes:
The lake. The Night. The Crickets. The Ravine. The Attic. The Basement. The Trapdoor. The Baby. The Crowd. The Night Train. The Fog Horn. The Scythe. The Carnival. The Carousel. The Dwarf. The Mirror Maze. The Skeleton.In his essay How to Keep and Feed the Muse he says:
What is the Subconscious to every man, in its creative aspect, became, for writers, the Muse.
How do you feed your muse? Read poetry every day which will flex your muscles and expand your senses. Consume essays, travel through the centuries. Learn and fill up your senses with the shape and size of the world, every color, smell, texture and sound. Read Short Stories and novels. Not only those who write the way you think but those that don't. It all serves to stimulate your Muse's tastebuds. And while you are feeding your muse, you have to keep it shape. And you do that by writing 1000 words a day for the next ten to twenty five years. Why?
...to learn enough about grammar and story construction so that these become part of the subconscious without restraining or distorting the muse.
In the essay Zen in the Art of Writing, he goes on to say follow your own path, write for the right reasons and not for the money or accolades.
Fame and money are gifts given us only after we have gifted the world with our best.
Write from the heart and emotions and learn. Keep writing. There is no failure as long as you keep writing. His Zen mantra is WORK -- RELAXATION -- DON'T THINK
So work at your writing and shoot for 1000 to 2000 words a day for the next twenty years. Write one short story a week for 52 weeks for five years. Much like the surgeon or artist or athlete train for years before they become proficient and successful, so must you train. Quantity provides the experience and with experience eventually comes quality. As in all things, writing takes practice. So feed your muse and start practicing.
To feed well is to grow. To work well and constantly is to keep what you have learned and know in prime condition. Experience. Labor. These are the two sides of the coin which when spun is neither experience nor labor, but the moment of revelation. The coin, by optical illusion, becomes a round, bright, whirling globe of life.
I've never been fond of poetry or essays so this will be interesting, but I'm going to try. We have plenty of dusty books inherited from hubby's mom that have been languishing on the shelves. Speaking of which, Bradbury suggested reading as a supplement to his book Dorothea Brande's Becoming a Writer which coincidentally is one of those dusty books. I love rabbit trails and synchronicity. Already read the first two chapters and love it already.
If you need writing motivation for the beginning of the year or at any point, really, be sure to read Zen in the Art of Writing.
If you have any favorite poetry or essay books, I'd love to hear about them.