This week’s writing tip comes from the little gem of a book, Zen in the Art of Writing, by Ray Bradbury. It is a collection of short essays on Bradbury’s life as a writer. Some of it harkens back to a time in writing that we can’t relate to anymore, the pulps, but much of it is just about being a living, breathing writer and finding your way in the world. You don’t have to read or write science fiction to get a lot out of this book.
Here, a snippet, from his chapter on how to keep and feed a muse.
“Read poetry every day of your life. Poetry is good because if 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 eyes, your ear, your tongue, your hand. And above all, poetry is compacted metaphor or simile. Such metaphors, like Japanese paper flowers, may expand outward into gigantic shapes. Ideas lie everywhere through the poetry books, yet how rarely have I herd short story teachers recommending them for browsing.”
When Phil Farmer was giving me writing advice back in the 1980’s, he recommended I concentrate heavily on three subjects if I wanted to write good science fiction: biology, anthropology, and classic poetry.
Sounds like a perfect combo for me. Bradbury also recommended essays of all kinds.
Just wanted I needed to read this morning. Thanks, Susan (and Ray Bradbury .. but you for opening the page)
Glad I could help. I needed the reminder too.
I would rarely read poetry if it didn’t get sent to me every morning- one can subscribe to the poetry and literary history of the day sent by Garrison Keillor- and the address is: email@example.com (it is called The Writer’s Almanac if that doesn’t work)
That’s a great idea! Thanks for sharing.
I read Bradbury’s book and liked it very much, but–if I remember correctly–it didn’t quite click with the writer that I am (I hope!). I seem to need structure and practical advice in my writing books and, while I admire Bradbury very much, when I step onto the path he talks about I feel too wobbly and nebulous. (It’s been a while since I read it, so I may be getting things wrong here.) Also, while every now and then I find a poem that really hits me (like your whole book, Susan!), poetry is not something I can just sit and read. Where are the 600 pages of my favorite characters? 🙂
I do think he’s right, really–having watched my son’s response to the poetry he’s read–it is an entirely different kind of reading, and it lets your brain use different, important synapses, I think.
Maybe later in life for me? Or maybe I passed that point already? 🙂
I have to laugh because you are right – he does make me feel a bit wobbly when I read that book. Sort of like I have had too much to drink.
What I took away from the book as a whole was that there was no one way to write or work and that was okay. I need to be reminded of that A LOT.
As for poetry, I can’t read page after page after page. But I can read one poem. I love Julie’s tip above to get a poem a day in your email via Garrison Keillor.
Oh don’t you love it when the Universe does that for you! 🙂