Tag Archives: ray bradbury

If by Rudyard Kipling

Do you read poetry? While I’ve read it occasionally, I have to admit it wasn’t something I routinely turned to.  I have my favorite poets and have shared a few of their works on this site.

After reading Ray Bradbury’s book Zen in the Art of Writing last year, I decided to make reading poetry part of my daily routine. Bradbury said you must feed the muse a diet of poetry, essays, and short stories. In fact, he recommended reading one essay, one poem and one short story every night before going to bed.

“Poetry, essays. What about short stories, novels? Of course. 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. Here again, don’t let snobbery of others prevent you from reading Kipling, say, while no one else is reading him.” ~ Ray Bradbury

 

If by Rudyard Kipling

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on!”

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son

Finding Your Writing Zen

ZZ is for Zen

What is Zen?

According to urbandictionary.com, Zen is “a total state of focus that incorporates a togetherness of body and mind. Zen is a way of being. It also is a state of mind. Zen involves dropping illusion and seeing things without distortion created by your own thoughts.”

In his book, Zen in the Art of Writing, Ray Bradbury tells us the following are necessary to achieve Zen as a writer: Continue reading Finding Your Writing Zen

How I Won NaNoWriMo

Yesterday, I discussed my, ahem, “strategy” for NaNoWriMo. Okay, you can stop laughing now. Seriously, stop. It’s embarrassing. Okay, are we done yet? Let’s move on people.

Yeah, it didn’t work out so well for me. But, I did win. See that image in the blue box on the right of my blog? At 50,004 words, I won by a hair.

Here are my daily word count statistics from the NaNoWriMo website:

NaNoWriMo StatsSee how I was churning out words every day, with the exception of my day of “cleaning” out the cobwebs (literally and figuratively) on day seven? I was on a roll. I was going to finish early! Somewhere around mid-month, I scheduled a celebratory wine tour with my husband to take place on November 30th. It would be my reward for winning NaNoWriMo. Presumptuous, I know, but I felt confident {key phrase coming} at that point.

Then I hit a wall and didn’t write anything for four days (the 20th through the 23rd). It felt like I was gasping for my last breath as a writer. On the fourth day I turned to Story Engineering by Larry Brooks for oxygen. Reading his book was like breathing in the fresh air. I had read dozens of books on the craft of writing up to this point, but found the formula for writing a good novel was nonexistent or esoteric at best. You just had to plug away at the keyboard every day and eventually something worthwhile would emerge. Some of these books have been praised by me in posts on this blog (Words of Wisdom on Writing from the King and Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury).

Like them, I was a panster. We don’t need no stinking model! Both King and Bradbury professed that there was no magic formula to writing. Here is what they had to say on the subject:

“Plotting and the spontaneity of real creation aren’t compatible.” Stephen King, On Writing

“Plot is no more than footprints left in the snow after your characters have run by on their way to incredible destinations.” ― Ray Bradbury, Zen in the Art of Writing

I found their books inspiring, stirring to a writer’s soul, and while they provided loads of helpful advice, there was no specific advice about how to write a novel. I didn’t think it existed, until I read Brooks’ book.

After reading the book, I knew exactly what to write next. I came back with a bang on the 24th, but then took time off to celebrate my son’s birthday on the 25th and Thanksgiving with the families on the 28th and 29th.

I woke up early on the 30th and wrote feverishly for a few hours. As I was nearing the 50k mark, I began to imagine that my computer would somehow blow up and the work would be lost forever. Even the copy on the jump drive would somehow magically disappear. Once I noticed that my word count had surpassed 50,000 words, I hastily pasted the story into the NaNoWriMo site and validated my word count. MS Word showed the total word count at 50,048. The NaNoWriMo validation check clocked it at 50,004, just a few words over the required minimum. I had done it. I actually wrote 50,000 words in a month.

This is how I felt:

 

 Tomorrow, I’ll discuss what I learned from Brook’s masterful book.

Quote of the Week: A Pep Talk for NaNoWriMo Participants

Last night I was regretting my decision to sign up for NaNoWriMo, that’s National Novel Writing Month for those of you who aren’t familiar with the acronym.  It’s an annual event where participants gather online to support each other in writing an entire 50,000 word novel during the month of November. It sounds pretty daunting, doesn’t it? I started to have reservations about my ability to tackle this seemingly insurmountable task. As the doubts started to creep in, I was visited by several writers far wiser than I will ever be.

Me: What was I thinking? How can I possibly write 50,000 words in thirty days? That’s 1,667 words per day, every day!

“You can, you should, and if you’re brave enough to start, you will.”

Me: [looks around the room for the source of the spoken words] Who said that?

A miniature Stephen King, standing less than ten inches tall, appears from behind my laptop.

 Me: Okay, I’m a little freaked out now.

Stephen King: I seem to have that effect on people. It probably has something to do with the fact that I write horror novels. [Whispers and taps his temple] They don’t think I’m right in the head! Anyway, “the scariest moment is always just before you start.”

I blink several times, but tiny Stephen simply leans against my laptop screen and folds his arms across his chest.

Stephen King: [picks at his fingernails] Yeah, I’m still here.

Me: I must be hallucinating. I’ve gone mad.

Cornelia Funke: [whispers in my right ear] “So what? All writers are lunatics!”

I jump at the sound of Cornelia’s voice and turn to see her sitting on my shoulder. She grins and waves.

Me: Uh, hello there, tiny…author…on my…shoulder.

She’s right you know. “Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.”

I glance behind me to see E.L. Doctorow sitting on the shelf.

Me: [shakes head] This is not happening. I’m not seeing this.

Franz Kafka: [pokes head out from under the lamp shade] It’s a little Kafkaesque, isn’t it? Ha! I’ve always wanted to use that word.

Me: It’s more than surreal. It’s –it’s. That’s it. I’m going insane.

Franz Kafka: Because you’re not writing. “A non-writing writer is a monster courting insanity.”

Ray Bradbury: [pops up from inside my coffee cup] “You must stay drunk on writing” –not the crap you’ve got in this mug [wipes hands on shirt] —“so reality cannot destroy you.”

Ernest Hemingway: [scales the side of my desk, strains to pull himself over the edge, walks over to Bradbury, and peeks inside the cup] I’ll drink to that ol’ chap! What does she have in there?   

Me: But I have been writing. Well, at least I was until I started planning for NaNoWriMo. So now I must write 50,000 words in one month. That’s almost an entire book!

George Orwell: [stands on his head on a bookshelf across the room] “Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout with some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.”

Me: I hadn’t considered demonic possession. I’m likely to suffer nightmares now. Thanks for bringing it up, George. Or shall I call you Eric? And why are you standing on your head, anyway?

George Orwell: “You are noticed more if you stand on your head than if you are right way up.”

Me: O-kay, but how is that going to help me write?

Ernest Hemingway: “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” [Sits at my laptop, pulls up the sleeve of his shirt and dramatically mimics slicing his wrist while falling across the keyboard]

Neil Gaiman: [sits on my notepad] Oh, don’t be so dramatic, Ernie.

Ernest Hemingway: Don’t call me Ernie.

Neil Gaiman: Why? Everyone knows you detest your given name.

Ernest Hemingway: Well, that was before Sesame Street. I’d much rather be “associated with the naïve, even foolish hero of Oscar Wilde’s play” than that muppet with a proclivity for rubber duckies.

Stephen King: [sings] Rubber Duckie, you’re the one. You make bath time so much fun.

Ernest Hemingway: Shut it, Stevie.

Stephen King: [giggles]

Me: Have you ever considered that people think of you when they hear the name Ernest?

Ernest Hemingway: [blushes]. Ahem, uh no.

Neil Gaiman: [turns to me] “This is how you do it: you sit down at the keyboard and you put one word after another until it’s done. It’s that easy, and that hard.”

Stephen King: Gaiman’s right. “When asked, ‘How do you write?’ I invariably answer, ‘One word at a time,’ and the answer is invariably dismissed. But that is all it is. It sounds too simple to be true, but consider the Great Wall of China if you will: one stone at a time, man. That’s all. One stone at a time. But I’ve read you can see that motherfucker from space without a telescope.”

Me: [laughs] You’re always good for a laugh Mr. King. So how do I start a novel if I don’t have an idea of how it might end?  Don’t I need to begin with the end in mind?

Anne Lamott:  “E.L. Doctorow once said that ‘Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.’ You don’t have to see where you’re going, you don’t have to see your destination or everything you will pass along the way. You just have to see two or three feet ahead of you. This is right up there with the best advice on writing, or life, I have ever heard.”

E.L. Doctorow: I did say that didn’t I? Wise man, I must say, wise man.  

Me: Okay, well I’ve written a story, but it’s crap so it’ll probably never get published.

Ernest Hemingway: Not to worry. “The first draft of anything is shit.”

Me: But it’s still crap after several revisions. I became overly descriptive. When I edited that out, and killed my little darlings, I think I murdered the entire manuscript. My writing voice bled out all over the floor.

Stephen King: [sighs] “The road to hell is paved with adverbs.”

Mark Twain: [walks up and slaps Stephen on the back] Stevie boy is right. Just do what I always did. “Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very;’ your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.”

Ernest Hemingway: “All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.”

Me: One sentence, huh? Try about five or ten thousand sentences, Mr. Hemingway.

Ernest Hemingway: Well, if you didn’t detest my writing so much, maybe you would have learned something.

Me: Actually, I respect your writing style, I just don’t care for some of your characters all that much.

Mark Twain: [Looks admiringly at Hemingway] “I notice that you use plain, simple language, short words and brief sentences. That is the way to write English―it is the modern way and the best way. [Directs his attention to me] Stick to it; don’t let fluff and flowers and verbosity creep in. When you catch an adjective, kill it. No, I don’t mean utterly, but kill most of them―then the rest will be valuable. They weaken when they are close together. They give strength when they are wide apart. An adjective habit, or a wordy, diffuse, flowery habit, once fastened upon a person, is as hard to get rid of as any other vice.”

Me: Humph. Maybe that’s why it took me so damn long to write that first book. But thirty days? It’s unsettling to have that deadline looming out there.

Douglas Adams: [runs across my desk] “I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.”

Me: [head – desk] Why am I doing this again?

Philip Pullman: “After nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world.”

Me: [feels rejuvenated] I needed that. Can I give you a hug? 

Ursula K. Le Guin: [looks up from my pocket thesaurus] Look, you’re a writer. “A writer is a person who cares what words mean, what they say, how they say it.”

Me: I do have an affinity for words. You could call me a logophile, I suppose.

Ursula K. Le Guin: “Writers know words are their way towards truth and freedom, and so they use them with care, with thought, with fear, with delight. By using words well, they strengthen their souls. Story-tellers and poets spend their lives learning the skill and art of using words well. And their words make the souls of their readers stronger, brighter, deeper.”

Me: You had me at “writers.” Please go on.

Anton Chekhov: [sits on a curtain rod, points to the window] “Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.”

Me: [smiles admiringly] Oh, I love that.

Stephen King: I hate to break up the love fest, but you’ve got work to do. “So okay― there you are in your room with the shade down and the door shut and the plug pulled out of the base of the telephone. You’ve blown up your TV and committed yourself to a thousand words a day—”

Me: Ahem. Actually, I’ve committed myself to one thousand six-hundred and sixty-seven words a day.

Stephen King: Well you’re screwed. Heh heh. Just kidding. Okay, so you’ve committed yourself to one thousand six-hundred sixty-seven words a day “come hell or high water. Now comes the big question: What are you going to write about? And the equally big answer: Anything you damn well want.”

Me: Oh, I’ve got plenty of story ideas.     

John Steinbeck: [leans on my copy of Grapes of Wrath] “Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen,” and then an entire book like this one here.

Me: Tell me about it. Ideas invade my dreams and wake me up in the middle of the night.

Saul Bellow: That’s wonderful. “You never have to change anything you got up in the middle of the night to write.”

Me: I can’t sleep until I acknowledge the voices in my head or at least write the idea down.

Maya Angelou: [caresses the tiny bird cage on my shelf] Ain’t that the truth. That’s because “there is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”

Me: But I have so many ideas, which one should I write about for NaNo?

Meg Cabot: “Write the kind of story you would like to read. People will give you all sorts of advice about writing, but if you are not writing something you like, no one else will like it either.”

Toni Morrison: “If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”

Sylvia Plath: “Everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.”

Ray Bradbury: “Your intuition knows what to write, so get out of the way.”

Jack London: “You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.”

Stephen King: Or an axe. All wait and no write make Jack a dull boy. Heh heh. “Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.”

Friedrich Nietzsche: “All I need is a sheet of paper and something to write with, and then I can turn the world upside down.”

Neil Gaiman: Well bloody good for you Friedrich. “Being a writer is a very peculiar sort of a job: it’s always you versus a blank sheet of paper (or a blank screen) and quite often the blank piece of paper wins.”

Alexandre Dumas: “I have always had more dread of a pen, a bottle of ink, and a sheet of paper than of a sword or pistol.”

Me: [shakes head and sighs deeply] You call this helping? You guys are supposed to be giving me a pep talk.

Neil Gaiman: [looks at me apologetically] Sorry. “Just make good art.”

Me: But how will I know if I’ve created good art? 

Kurt Vonnegut: “If you want to really hurt you parents—”

Me: What? No! How did the subject of my parents enter into this conversation?

Kurt Vonnegut: [ignores me] “And you don’t have the nerve to be gay, the least you can do is go into the arts.”

Me: Huh?

Kurt Vonnegut: “I’m not kidding. The arts are not a way to make a living. They are a very human way of making life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possibly can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something.”

Me: But how can I make good art if I don’t have any formal training in writing? Critics will crucify me.

Ernest Hemingway: “It’s none of their business that you have to learn how to write. Let them think you were born that way.”

Neil Gaiman: “I’ve been making a list of the things they don’t teach you at school. They don’t teach you how to love somebody. They don’t teach you how to be famous. They don’t teach you how to be rich or how to be poor. They don’t teach you how to walk away from someone you don’t love any longer. They don’t teach you how to know what’s going on in someone else’s mind. They don’t teach you what to say to someone who’s dying. They don’t teach you anything worth knowing.”

Stephen King: “A little talent is a good thing to have if you want to be a writer. But the only real requirement is the ability to remember every scar.”

Me: Okay, I have a plethora of scars and a decent memory. Are there any rules I should follow?

W. Somerset Maugham: I’ve heard “there are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.”

Me:  Well, you’re a lot of help, William.

W. Somerset Maugham: Just Dubya, please.

Me: Dubya? Really? Do you – oh never mind.

Ernest Hemingway: “There is no rule on how to write. Sometimes it comes easily and perfectly; sometimes it’s like drilling rock and then blasting it out with charges.”

Me: Oh fabulous. So now I need dynamite. Lovely bit of advice there, Ernest.

Ernest Hemingway: [retrieves a bottle from inside his vest and takes a swig] It can drive you to drinking.

Me: Okay, so what should I do if I get writer’s block? I’ve only got thirty, as in 3-0, days, and if I fall behind I’m toast.

Steve Martin: Ah! “Writer’s block is a fancy term made up by whiners so they can have an excuse to drink alcohol.”

Ernest Hemingway: I frequently had writer’s block. [raises his bottle in a mock toast and winks]

Stephen King: [glares at Hemingway] I get writer’s block too. It sucks. [grabs the bottle from Hemingway and turns it upside down to pour out the remaining contents, but it’s empty]

Ernest Hemingway: [shrugs his shoulders] I did you a favor ol’ chap. Don’t want to wrestle those demons again, do you?  

Stephen King: [ignores Hemingway and directs his attention to me] Here’s what you need to do. “Write with the door closed, rewrite with the door open.”

Me: Okay, so I guess I need some privacy. How did all of you get in here, anyway?

Neil Gaiman: “Stories you read when you’re the right age never quite leave you. You may forget who wrote them or what the story was called. Sometimes you’ll forget precisely what happened, but if a story touches you it will stay with you, haunting the places in your mind that you rarely ever visit.”

Me: [glances at each of the tiny inhabitants in my room] Ah, of course. It all makes sense now. A writer inserts a little bit of himself into every book he writes. In that way, a writer becomes immortal because his words live on in the hearts and minds of the readers who relish his words for generations to come.

Neil Gaiman: Precisely.

Stephen King: “Writing is magic, as much the water of life as any other creative art. The water is free. So drink. Drink and be filled up.”

Ernest Hemingway: [pulls another bottle from his vest pocket and passes it to me] Let’s have a drink!

Stephen King: [glares at Hemingway] I wasn’t talking about alcohol, Ernie. It’s a metaphor. I didn’t think I’d have to spell it out for you, Mr. [makes air quotes] “Iceberg Theory.”

Me: [reaches for the bottle] I think I need a drink. A little bravery tonic might help me through this ordeal.  

Kurt Vonnegut: [sighs deeply] “So it goes.”

J.R.R. Tolkien: [intercepts the bottle and looks at me admonishingly] “It’s the job that’s never started that takes longest to finish.” [Smiles] Remember, “all we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

Me: [sits down to write] Indeed.

Good luck to everyone participating in NaNoWriMo this month! If you want to be my buddy on NaNoWriMo, I’m pretty easy to find. I’m listed as Melissa Janda.

Now, ready, set, WRITE!

 

Something Wicked This Way Comes

something wicked this way comesI woke up this morning in a fog… literally. It seems a portentous fog rolled in with the month of October, enveloping my neighborhood in its eerie haze.

Why does the fog give one such a sense of foreboding? It’s the same thing with the night. That which we can’t see fills us with fear of the unknown. The fog, like the night, seems to carry something with it, something sinister hidden within its gossamer layers.

I stood on the back porch, drinking my chai tea, and the words “something wicked this way comes” entered my mind.  After a moment, I thought, “That’s the next book I’ll read.”

I headed to the local bookstore to buy a copy. I found it, along with a few others (seriously, how often do you leave a bookstore with just one book?), and headed for the exit. As I opened the front door of the store, a black cat crossed my path. I’m not kidding. It walked right in front of me. I could have stepped on it if I hadn’t halted mid step.  Shouldn’t feral cats be timid? This one seemed pretty bold. It looked at me for a moment as if to say, “You getting the message?” and then bolted underneath a car.

the-birdsHumph, that’s odd. I shrugged and headed toward my car. As I pulled the car keys from my purse, two black crows swooped down near me. I glanced up, half expecting an attack like a scene from The Birds. Thankfully there were no other crows in the area to give credence to my imaginings. I looked down at the title of the book in my hand and smirked. No one is going to believe this. Evidence, I need photographic evidence.

The birds had flown away, but the cat was hiding underneath a nearby car. I backed out of the space and parked across the parking lot. I’d wait for it to emerge or maybe I’d honk to frighten it from its hiding place. Then I spied something in my peripheral vision: a shadow lurking among the cars farther down the road. I drove in that direction, and yes, there was the cat. It was looking at me from the underbelly of a truck. Its eyes were glowing emeralds. I snapped a picture. And then, I noticed the hitch cover of the truck it was hiding underneath. At first glance, I thought it said EVIL LIVES, and started to get a little spooked. Upon closer inspection, I noticed it said EVIL LYN. But seriously, I’m not making this stuff up. Here are the pictures I was able to get with my phone.

black cat2 black cat1

Now, here is an excerpt from Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury:

“How do you hear it, how are you warned? The ear, does it hear? No. But the hairs on the back of your neck, and the peach-fuzz in your ears, they do, and the hair along your arms sings like grasshopper legs fractioned and trembling with strange music.”

This was the first page I turned to. Does anyone else have goosebumps?

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

Feed the Muse: Get in the Game

get in the gameI started this blog with the intention of documenting my writing journey and to share what I’ve learned with other aspiring authors. I’ve filled it with many posts on writing advice (from others and lessons I’ve learned), excerpts and reviews of books I’ve read, promotions of other author’s work, quotes that inspire me, music that inspires me, and bloggers who inspire me.  I intend to keep posting in these categories, but there is something very important in the life of a writer that is lacking on this blog…experiences.

Sure I have them. Everyone does. I’ve shared a few on this blog, and other than what is contained in my journals, they often go undocumented, residing only in my mind until I have the occasion to recall them in my writing.

As Bradbury tells us in his book, Zen in the Art of Writing, it is through our life experiences and the senses we use to ingest them that we feed the muse. As writers, we inherently know that. We’re natural observers. We spend the majority of our day ingesting and then reflecting on life experiences. I’m an INFP (Introverted, Intuitive, Feeling, Perceptive) personality type, borderline INFJ (judging), so the reflecting part comes naturally, but I  wonder, since the time I decided to become a writer if I’ve kept my muse on a strict diet, writing mostly about what pertains to my current WIP. I thought I was being disciplined, but maybe I was starving the muse.

As Bradbury tells us, feed where you want to feed. It may not relate to something that you want published today, but that doesn’t mean it won’t give birth to an idea for a story or a scene months, years, possibly even decades from now.  Plus, it will only improve your writing.

Bradbury tells us “by living well, by observing as you live, by reading well and observing as you read, you have fed Your Most Original Self. By training yourself in writing, by repetitious exercise, imitation, good example, you have made a clean, well-lighted place to keep the Muse. You have given her, him, it, or whatever, room to turn around in. And through training, you have relaxed yourself enough not to stare discourteously when inspiration comes into the room.”

So, I view these posts as part of my training to be a writer and will keep feeding the muse by writing about life experiences.

The Tolkien quote on the header of my blog captures the essence of how I feel about life. We are given one life, and although we don’t get to choose the time or circumstances that we are born into, we do have a choice about how we spend the time we have.

fieldLife is not meant to be a spectator sport (I must’ve read that somewhere). Don’t just sit on the sidelines of life as a silent observer. Get in the game. Feel the sand between your toes, marvel at a star-filled sky, listen to the tranquil melody of a bird, smell the sweet scent of a baby’s skin, feel the warmth of the sun on your face, taste a lover’s kiss. Taste life.  Go out there and breathe in the fresh air. Let it fill your lungs and revel in the joy that you are ALIVE. And when the final seconds tick off the clock, know that you left it all on the field.

I won’t promise to post every week, but I can promise you this. I will be out there experiencing life, making the most of the time that is given to me.

“All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.” ~ J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

Book Review: Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury

I typically finish a book in a day or two, and although my reading time was limited when I was reading this book, it wasn’t the only reason it took me longer to finish Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t get past the preface before I was marking sentences that spoke to me and rereading them. I think if you have the soul of a writer, this book will speak to you too. Here is an excerpt:

“I have learned on my journeys, that if I let a day go by without writing, I grow uneasy. Two days and I am in tremor. Three and I suspect lunacy. Four and I might as well be a hog, suffering the flux in a wallow. An hour’s writing is tonic. I’m on my feet, running in circles, and yelling for a clean pair of spats.”

If you’re looking for a how-to manual on writing, this is not the book for you. There seems to be a consistent message among great authors who publish books on writing. There is no magic formula. You must simply have the desire to write and determination to see it through.

Bradbury’s book is a collection of essays written over a thirty year period. Here is a sampling of some of his advice about the craft of writing:

Write with zest. Writing is meant to be a joyful experience. Write what you are passionate about and then it will be.

Feed the Muse. We feed our bodies by ingesting food and water. We feed the muse by ingesting life experiences through our senses. Seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling, and feeling give sustenance to the Muse.

Read everything you can get your hands on. It doesn’t matter if the author writes like you or not. Read it anyway and reap the benefits of an expanded mind.

“These are the stuffs, the foods, on which The Muse grows. This is the storehouse, the file, to which we must return every waking hour to check reality against memory, and in sleep to check memory against memory, which means ghost against ghost, in order to exorcise them, if necessary.”

Surround yourself with supportive people and get rid off (no, put the gun away, silly) those who aren’t.

Write every single day. Ray Bradbury wrote 1,000 words per day from the time he was twelve, and finally discovered his unique story at the age of twenty-two. Do this exercise and your voice will eventually emerge.

When it comes to first drafts, just put your thoughts down on the page. Don’t stop to analyze what you’ve written. Don’t let Left Brain spoil the party.

“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.”

Make lists. That’s right. Make lists of topics that interest you, things that you love or hate, things that exhilarate or terrify, things that have left an impression on you. The stories that live within you–from your unique thoughts and life experiences–will take their first breath from the words on your list.

“I leave you now at the bottom of your own stair, at half after midnight, with a pad, a pen and a list to be made. Conjure the nouns, alert the secret self, taste the darkness. Your own Thing stands waiting ‘way up there in the attic shadows. If you speak softly and write any old word that wants to jump out of your nerves onto the page…

Your Thing at the top of your stairs in your own private night…may well come down.”

I highly recommend this book to anyone who wishes to be a writer.

4 of 5 stars

Quote of the Week: Ray Bradbury (yes, again)

r bradburyThe quote of the week comes from the book Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury. I really enjoyed this book and plan to post a review of it for those that are interested.

“And what, you ask, does writing teach us?

First and foremost, it reminds us that we are alive and that it is a gift and a privilege, not a right. We must earn life once it has been awarded us. Life asks for rewards back because it has favored us with animation.

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.”

Teaser Tuesday: Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury

ZenITAOWI failed to post a teaser last week but it doesn’t matter because I’m still reading the same book, Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury. This is unusual for me because I typically complete a book in a day or two.

Have I lost interest, you may ask? Absolutely not. I am relishing this book, R-E-L-I-S-H-I-N-G, re-reading sentences and paragraphs. I don’t generally mark up the books I read. I try to keep them in as pristine condition as possible. But I tossed that propensity right out the window with this book. I couldn’t get past the preface (don’t generally read that either) before I was underlining passages (ever so lightly in pencil, of course) and dog-earring pages. {Gasp!}

This book speaks to the heart of a writer. Here is an excerpt (I couldn’t stick to the TT guidance and limit it to 2 sentences):

“It is the moment when the porch swing creaks gentle and a voice speaks. All hold their breath. The voice rises and falls. Dad tells of other years. A ghost rises off his lips. The subconscious stirs and rubs its eyes. The Muse ventures in the ferns below the porch, where the summer boys, strewn on the lawn, listen. The words become poetry that no one minds, because no one has thought to call it that. Time is there. Love is there. Story is there. A well-fed man keeps and calmly gives forth his infinitesimal portion of eternity. It sounds big in the summer night. And it is, as it always was down the ages, when there was a man with something to tell, and ones quiet and wise, to listen.”

I. LOVE. THIS. If that doesn’t stir your soul as a writer, honey, I don’t know what will.

realswellblog.com
realswellblog.com

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

Quote of the Week: Ray Bradbury

I just started reading Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury so I thought I’d share one of my favorite quotes by the famous writer. I know all of my writer friends will recognize themselves in his words.

sheincommunications.com
sheincommunications.com

“Many people hear voices when no one is there. Some of them are called mad and are shut up in rooms where they stare at the walls all day. Others are called writers and they do pretty much the same thing.” ~Ray Bradbury