“… to gently lie and prove the lie true…”
This is the devastatingly accurate description of fiction writing provided by an accomplished master of the craft. Someone whom I have the utmost regard for, who has been entertaining us for decades and decades. And thankfully he has given us an inspirational guidebook to help spur our own creativity onward.
The tome to help release your own inner genius is called Zen in the Art of Writing, proselytized by the esteemed Ray Bradbury. Come, join the movement, let Bradbury make you a creator you were meant to be. Here’s how…
All throughout Bradbury fills the reader with thoughts, tangents, and tips on writing. It is not a technical manual, he does not provide a laundry list of books or tools, but instead gives a steady stream of gospel. Read poetry, write everyday, just let yourself tell a story with no idea what the destination is, live at the library (not figuratively!), and don’t be afraid to fail. What may sound like just plain old fashioned good advice, is actually ideas and practices most of us creative folks ignore. Constantly doing the grunt work, even if it seems to go nowhere fast, can and will result in tangible evidence of your ability.
To illustrate his mantras, Bradbury gives us many examples of where various and sundry short stories came from. The germ of these ideas are from anger over a magazine article, or a walk on the beach, or a truth about one of his ancestors, and so on and so on, ad infinitum. Bradbury would come up with a concept, and with religious devotion and a strict gripping schedule, force everything out of himself and onto the page. One short story a week was the internal demand that had to be met. And met it was.
Some of these morsels of intellect grew after awhile into full-length books, radio adventures, stage plays, television shows, and movies. Ideas expanding and zipping along in different directions, flipping characters onto their sides and playing with whatever reality was previously established. Bradbury never saw limits to what he was doing. He loves the idea and the creation of it. Where can you go? Everywhere.
A prime study of Bradbury’s process is illustrated in the essay “Investing Dimes: Fahrenheit 451”. How slapping dimes into a pay typewriter helped bring about this modern classic, all because rambunctious children wanted to be played with. Bradbury goes into great length to deconstruct how Fahrenheit 451, originally a short story before it found new life as his first novel in 1953, was translated years later into a stage play. Grabbing an idea about Captain Beatty, he created a new scene, neatly interjected into the first narrative. More flesh and bone is added, causing a new weaving of these character’s lives. In a few short pages, we witness something new from the master and see how effortlessly he plugs it into what came before. A logical idea fully realized.
This is just a taste of the inspiration Bradbury serves. Zen in the Art of Writing, which started life as a collection of essays penned over decades and appearing in various publications, should be an essential read for all seeking a creative outlet. This volume brought Bradbury’s fearless mindset to me. These tidbits of Bradbury wisdom cultivated a passion within, one Scoops Mental Propaganda helps unleash. In a funny fact, being a Zen book, and one authored by him, I was surprised we did not find each other earlier in life. And in another funny fact, this concept of Scoop now feels like it has always existed. Maybe it always has, but only in my head, and now it is spreading out all over the interwebs. If I can do this, you can.
So now we switch from the ethereal to the earthly.
Get writing. Right now. And don’t stop. Ray says so.
P.S. Zen in the Art of Writing cover is copyright 2012 to Bantam Books. It is 158 pages in paperback.