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Lessons About Writing From Ray Bradbury

Famed Science Fiction author Ray Bradbury recently celebrated his 88th Birthday. Perhaps one of my favorite short stories that he wrote was A Sound Of Thunder, which discusses the dangers of time travel.

Meanwhile, Ray Bradbury gave a talk to a bunch of students at Point Loma Nazarene University‘s Sixth Annual Writer’s Symposium by the Sea in 2001. He gave some interesting advise to would-be writers, which I will take the liberty of quoting and paraphrasing here. Even so, watch the whole video, it’s well worth it!

Write Often: In the context of writing a novel, Bradbury says that writing a novel might not be the best thing to do as a beginning writer. Writing short stories is much easier. The quality doesn’t matter, but the practice does. And you wonder why I write so many blog posts? If I write several a day for a year, they can’t all suck. ;)

Read Other Works: Bradbury lists several authors–some in print, some not–that are required reading for writing short stories. In addition, he suggests reading poetry and essays in a variety of fields–especially ones outside your own field of interest! Do it nightly. You will get ideas and metaphors that you can use in your own writing.

Enjoy Your Writing: Bradbury says “Writing is not a serious business, it’s a joy and a celebration. You should be having fun at it. [...] If it’s work, stop it and do something else!” I couldn’t agree more, having hit that proverbial wall in the middle of writing my second book, not to mention more recently in my blogging for various other places. It stopped being fun and became work. Both my writing and quality of life suffered.

How To Cure The Proverbial Writers Block: Bradbury says “it’s obvious you’re doing the wrong thing. [...] [Stop] whatever you’re writing and do something else.” I can tell you from my own experience that my best writing simply flows from my fingertips without much thought. When you’re writing the right thing, there is no writers block.

Don’t Go Into Writing For The Money: Sometimes you get paid to write things you don’t want to write. If you don’t enjoy it, the writing won’t be as good and might compromise your reputation as a writer.

Write Your Passion: In his talk, Bradbury talks about writing about what you hate and fear most. He also talks about writing about things you feel passionate about. Both hate and fear involve passion, and passion makes for some great writing. It’s also much easier to write, speaking from experience.

Surprise Yourself: This is one of the biggest surprises of this lecture. Here we have one of the greatest science fiction writers in literature saying outright that when he wrote several of his first books, he had no idea where they were going to end up. In fact, The Martian Chronicles several short stories that Bradbury had written about Mars, woven together. Bradbury followed his writing and passion wherever it took him. His love for a particular painting helped him to meet someone who ended up illustrating many of his books.

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