Tag Archives: Zen In the Art of Writing

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.

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.


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!