30 Amazing Pieces Of Writing Advice From Ray Bradbury’s ‘Zen In The Art Of Writing’

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1.

“You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.”

2.

“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. You don’t even know yourself. For the first thing a writer should be is – excited. He should be a thing of fevers and enthusiasms. Without such vigor, he might as well be out picking peaches or digging ditches; God knows it’d be better for his health.”

3.

“How long has it been since you wrote a story where your real love or your real hatred somehow got onto the paper? When was the last time you dared release a cherished prejudice so it slammed the page like a lightning bolt? What are the best things and the worst things in your life, and when are you going to get around to whispering or shouting them?”

4.

“Everywhere you look in the literary cosmos, the great ones are busy loving and hating.”

5.

“What can we writers learn from lizards, lift from birds? In quickness is truth. The faster you blurt, the more swiftly you write, the more honest you are. In hesitation is thought. In delay comes the effort for a style, instead of leaping upon truth which is the only style worth dead falling or tiger-trapping.”

6.

“When people ask me where I get my ideas, I laugh. How strange – we’re so busy looing out, to find ways and means, we forget to look in.”

7.

“All that is most original lies waiting for us to summon it forth. And yet we know it is not as easy as that. We know how fragile is the pattern woven by our fathers or uncles or friends, who can have their moment destroyed by a wrong word, a slammed door, or a passing fire-wagon. So, too, embarrassment, self-consciousness, remembered criticisms, can stifle the average person so that less and less in his lifetime can he open himself out.”

8.

“Read poetry every day of your life. Poetry is good because it flexes muscles you don’t use often enough. Poetry expands the senses and keeps them in prime condition. It keeps you aware of your nose, your eye, your ear, your tongue, your hand. And, above all, poetry is compacted metaphor or simile.”

9.

“Why all this insistence on the senses? Because in order to convince your reader that he is there, you must assault each of his senses, in turn, with color, sound, taste, and texture. If your reader feels the sun on his flesh, the wind fluttering his shirt sleeves, half your fight is won. The most improbable tales can be made believable, if your reader, through his senses, feels certain that he stands at the middle of events.”

10.

“Read those authors who write the way you hope to write, those who think the way you would like to think. But also read those who do not think as you think or write as you want to write, and so be stimulated in directions you might not take for many years.”

11. 

“Do not, for the vanity of intellectual publications, turn away from what you are – the material within you which makes you individual, and therefore indispensable to others.”

12.

“Be certain of this: When honest love speaks, when true admiration begins, when excitement arises, when hate curls like smoke, you need never doubt that creativity will stay with you for a lifetime. The core of your creativity should be the same as the core of your story and of the main character in your story.”

13.

“I have not so much thought my way through life as done things and found what it was and who I was after the doing. Each tale was a way of finding selves.”

14.

“It was with great relief, then, that in my early twenties I floundered into a word-association process in which I simply got out of bed each morning, walked to my desk, and put down any word or series of words that happened along in my head. I would then take arms against the word, or for it, and bring on an assortment of characters to weigh the word and show me its meaning in my own life. An hour or two hours later, to my amazement, a new story would be finished and done.”

15.

“Self-consciousness is the enemy of all art, be it acting, writing, painting, or living itself, which is the greatest art of all.”

16.

“We are cups, constantly and quietly being filled. The trick is, knowing how to tip ourselves over and let the beautiful stuff out.”

17.

“I’ve tried to teach my writing friends that there are two arts: number one, getting a thing done; and then, the second great art is learning how to cut it so you don’t kill it or hurt it in any way. When you start out life as a writer, you hate that job, but now that I’m older it’s turned into a wonderful game, and I love the challenge just as much as writing the original, because it’s a challenge. It’s an intellectual challenge to get a scalpel and cut the patient without killing.”

18. 

“As soon as things get difficult, I walk away. That’s the great secret of creativity. You treat ideas like cats: you make them follow you. If you try to approach a cat and pick it up, hell, it won’t let you do it. You’ve got to say, ‘Well, to hell with you.’ And the cat says, ‘Wait a minute. He’s not behaving the way most humans do.’ Then the cat follows you out of curiosity: ‘Well, what’s wrong with you that you don’t love me?’ Well, that’s what an idea is. See? You just say, ‘Well, hell, I don’t need depression. I don’t need worry. I don’t need to push.’ The ideas will follow me. When they’re off-guard, and ready to be born, I’ll turn around and grab them.”

19. 

“WORK. It is, above all, the word about which your career will revolve for a lifetime. Beginning now you should become not its slave, which is too mean a term, but its partner. Once you are really a co-sharer of existence with your work, that word will lose its repellant aspects.”

20.

“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.

21. 

“For I believe that eventually quantity will make for quality. Quantity gives experience. From experience alone can quality come.”

22.

“His greatest art will often be what he does not say, what he leaves out, his ability to state simply with clear emotion, the way he wants to go. The artists must work so hard, so long, that a brain develops and lives, all of itself, in his fingers.”

23.

“The artist must not think of the critical rewards or money he will get for painting pictures. He must think of beauty here in this brush ready to flow if he will release it. The surgeon must not think of his fee, but the life beating under his hands. The athlete must ignore the crowd and let his body run the race for him. The writer must let his fingers run out the story of his characters, who, being only human and full of strange dreams and obsessions, are only too glad to run.”

24.

“So we should not look down on work nor look down on the forty-five out of fifty-two stories written in our first year as failures. To fail is to give up. But you are in the midst of a moving process. Nothing fails then. All goes on. Work is done. If good, you learn from it. If bad, you learn even more. Work done and behind you is a lesson to be studied. There is no failure unless one stops. Not to work is to cease, tighten up, become nervous and therefore destructive of the creative process.”

25. 

“So, you see, we are working not for work’s sake, producing not for production’s sake. If that were the case, you would be right in throwing up your hands in horror and turning away from me. What we are trying to do is find a way to release the truth that lies in all of us.”

26. 

“How does one get lost? Through incorrect aims, as I have said. Through wanting literary fame too quickly. From wanting money too soon. If only we could remember, fame and money are gifts given us only after we have gifted the world with our best, our lonely, our individual truths.”

27.

“What do you think of the world? You, the prism, measure the light of the world; it burns through your mind to throw a different spectroscopic reading onto white paper than anyone else anywhere can throw. Let the world burn through you. Throw the prism light, white hot, on paper. Make your own individual spectroscopic reading.”

28.

“At heart, all good stories are the one kind of story, the story written by an individual man from his individual truth.”

29.

“Remember, Plot is no more than footprints left in the snow after your characters have run by on their way to incredible destinations. Plot is observed after the fact rather than before. It cannot precede action. It is the chart that remains when an action is through. That is all Plot ever should be. It is human desire let run, running, and reaching a goal. It cannot be mechanical. It can only be dynamic. So, stand aside, forget targets, let the characters, your fingers, body, blood, and heart do.”

30. 

“So while our art cannot, as we wish it could, save us from wars, privation, envy, greed, old age, or death, it can revitalize us amidst it all.” TC mark

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