A superb collection of some of Ray Bradbury’s advice on writing, and basis for my “A Million Words”project. Here are a few excerpts of this great webpage highlighting Bradbury’s terrific advice.
1. Don’t Start Out Writing Novels. Bradbury advises not to start your writing career by trying to write a novel. He explains that the problem with setting a goal of writing a novel to begin with is that you can spend a whole year trying to write one, and it might not turn out well. After all, if you’re just starting out you haven’t learned to write yet. Beginning and intermediate writers should write short stories; that way, you can write one short story a week.
When you start writing short stories, the quality doesn’t really matter; you’re practicing your craft. At the end of the year, you’ll have 52 short stories. Bradbury adds that it’s almost impossible not to have at least one good story among those 52. Writing short stories will teach you to be constantly looking for ideas. In addition, every week you’ll be happy, because by the end of each week you’ll have something to show for your efforts.
2. Read Great Short Stories. Of course, Bradbury recommends that you read a lot of short stories by great authors. Some examples of authors whose short stories you should read are Edgar Allan Poe, Herman Melville, Edith Wharton, and Washington Irving.
3. Stuff Your Head. In addition, Bradbury recommends that for one-thousand nights, before you go to sleep, you do the following:
- Read one short story a night.
- Read one poem a night.
- Read one essay a night, from very diverse fields: politics, philosophy, religion, biology, anthropology, psychology, and so on.
At the end of the one-thousand nights you’ll be full of stuff! All this stuff will be bouncing around in your head, and you’ll be able to come up with lots of new ideas. Here’s a quote in which Bradbury emphasizes that you must read everything that you can in a variety of different fields:
“I absolutely demand of you and everyone I know that they be widely read in every damn field there is; in every religion and every art form and don’ttell me you haven’t got time! There’s plenty of time. You need all of these cross-references. You never know when your head is going to use this fuel, this food for its purposes.”
4. Get Rid of Friends Who Don’t Support You. The next thing that Bradbury recommends is that you fire all of those friends who don’t believe in you, and who make fun of your aspirations to become a writer.
- “If any girl doesn’t like what you’re doing, ‘Out of your life!’”.
- “If your friends make fun of you, “To hell with them. Out!’”
5. Live In the Library. Bradbury didn’t go to college, because he couldn’t afford to do so. However, he would go to the library religiously and read everything he could get his hands on; he indicates that he graduated from the library at the age of 28. Here’s what Bradbury has to say about libraries:
- “I spent three days a week for 10 years educating myself in the public library, and it’s better than college. People should educate themselves – you can get a complete education for no money. At the end of 10 years, I had read every book in the library and I’d written a thousand stories.”
- ”You must lurk in libraries and climb the stacks like ladders to sniff books like perfumes and wear books like hats upon your crazy heads.”
6. Write With Joy. Bradbury would often say that writing is not a serious business; it’s not work. Writing is a joy, a celebration … you should be having fun at it. Bradbury shares that he never worked a day in his life; the joy of writing propelled him from day to day, and from year to year. Here are two of his quotes which reflect that sentiment:
- “Love is easy, and I love writing. You can’t resist love. You get an idea, someone says something, and you’re in love.”
- “Love. Fall in love and stay in love. Write only what you love, and love what you write. The key word is love. You have to get up in the morning and write something you love, something to live for.”
Three More Writing Tips From Ray Bradbury
In the 1963 documentary titled “Ray Bradbury: Story of a Writer“, Bradbury talks about his life and the creative process. (Watch the documentary while you’re having lunch, or when you have twenty-five minutes to spare. I think that you’ll enjoy it.) In the documentary, Bradbury shares several tips for writers, including the following three tips:
1. Know That It Takes a Long Time for Your Writing to Pay the Bills. It took Bradbury a long time to start making money from his writing. He says the following:
“The first year I made nothing, the second year I made nothing, the third year I made 10 dollars, the fourth year I made 40 dollars. I remember these. I got these indelibly stamped in there. The fifth year I made 80. The sixth year I made 200. The seventh year I made 800. Eighth year, 1,200. Ninth year, 2,000. Tenth year, 4,000. Eleventh year, 8,000 …
Just get a part-time job! Anything that’s halfway decent! An usher in a theater … unless you’re a mad man, you can’t make do in the art fields! You’ve gotta be inspired and mad and excited and love it more than anything else in the world! It has to be, ‘I gotta do it!’, and if you’re not that excited, you can’t win.”
2. Be a Pack Rat. Bradbury indicates that he’s kept everything that he’s ever cared about since childhood. He explains as follows:
“A writer’s past is the most important thing he has. Sometimes an object, a mask, a ticket stub, anything at all, helps me remember a whole experience, and out of that may come an idea for a story.”
3. Take Creativity Breaks. Bradbury urges writers to take breaks in order to allow ideas to percolate in the subconscious. Here’s what he says: “The time we have alone, the time we have in walking, the time we have in riding a bicycle, is the most important time for a writer. Escaping from the typewriter is part of the creative process. You have to give the subconscious time to think. Real thinking always occurs at the subconscious level.”
"Sowing the Seeds of Love," by Tears for Fears
"In casting your inspirational net as an artist, you become familiar with the humility that comes with watching your best-laid plans veer sideways, and recordings becoming something other than what you expected. So, you set out to travel to Rome … and end up in Istanbul. You set off for Japan… and you end up on a train across Siberia. The journey, not the destination, becomes a source of wonder."