Ray Bradbury – ZEN IN THE ART OF WRITING

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.

Secondly,  writing  is  survival.  Any  art,  any  good  work,  of course, is that. Not to write,  for many of us,  is to  die. We must take arms each and every day, perhaps knowing that
the  battle  cannot  be  entirely  won,  but fight  we  must,  if only a gentle bout. The smallest effort to win means, at the end of each day, a sort of victory.

Remember that pianist who said that if he did not practice every day he would know, if he did not practice for two days, the critics  would know, after three days, his audiences would know.

A  variation  of this  is  true  for  writers.  Not  that  your  style, whatever that is,  would melt out  of shape in those few  days. But what would happen is that the world would catch up with and try to sicken you. If you did not write every day, the poisons would accumulate and you would begin to die,  or act crazy,  or both.

You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you. For writing allows just the proper recipes of truth, life, reality as you are able to eat, drink, and digest without hyperventilating and flopping  like  a dead fish  in  your  bed.

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.

So that,  in one way or another, is what this book is all about. Taking your pinch of arsenic every morn so you can survive to sunset.  Another  pinch  at  sunset  so  that  you  can  more than survive  until  dawn. The mirco-arsenic dose swallowed here prepares you not to be poisoned  and  destroyed  up  ahead. Work in the midst of life is that dosage.

To manipulate life, toss the bright-colored orbs up to mix with the dark ones, blending a variation  of  truths.  We  use  the  grand  and  beautiful  facts  of existence  in  order  to  put  up  with  the  horrors  that  afflict  us directly in  our families  and friends,  or through the  newspapers and  T.V. The horrors are not to be denied. Who amongst us has not had a  cancer-dead  friend?  Which  family  exists  where  some  relative has not been killed or maimed by the automobile? I know of none.

In my own circle, an aunt, and uncle, and a cousin, as well as six friends, have been  destroyed by the car.  The list is  endless and crushing if we  do  not  creatively  oppose  it. Which means writing as cure. Not completely, of course. You never get over your parents in the hospital or your best love in the grave.

I  won’t  use  the  word  “therapy,”  it’s  too  clean,  too  sterile  a word. I only say when death slows others, you must leap to set up your diving board and dive  head first into  your typewriter.

The poets  and artists  of other years,  long past,  knew  all  and everything I have said here, or put in the following essays. Aristotle said it for the ages.  Have you listened to him lately?

These essays were written at various times over a thirty-year period, to express special discoveries, to serve special needs. But they  all  echo  the  same  truths  of  explosive  self-revelation  and continuous astonishment at what your deep well contains if you just  haul  off and  shout  down  it. Even as I write this, a letter has come from a young, unknown
writer,  who  says he is  going to  live  by my motto,  found in  my Toynbee Convector.

” . . . to gently lie and prove the lie true .  .  . everything is finally
a promise . . . what seems a lie is a ramshackle need, wishing to be born.  …”

And  now:
I have come up with a new simile to describe myself lately.  It can  be yours. Every morning I jump out of bed and step on a landmine. The I landmine is me. After  the  explosion,  I  spend  the  rest  of the  day  putting  the pieces  together.
Now,  it’s your turn.  Jump!