Tag Archives: Ray Bradbury

Improve your writing by not thinking

Thinking is not good for writers. Thinking means analyzing what you are doing, dissecting your sentence, your paragraph, your page. Is everything you want to say there? Is it said the correct way? And are you following all the rules those creative books say you should do? Does doing this numb the mind? If you want to improve your writing, then stop thinking and just write. And here is why.

In his book “Zen in the Art of Writing” Ray Bradbury says,  “. . . 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 deadfalling or tiger-trapping.”

I don’t know what Bradbury means by ‘deadfalling or ‘tiger-trapping’, but I understand what he is talking about.

Style can not be calculated. Style is how you write and that reflects who you are; a writers style comes out of his being. Don’t be who you are not. It is impossible for me to write a tragedy, a serious drama, a heart warming love story, or an inspiring story. The reason is that my sense of humor, good or bad, always finds its way into the story. I can’t help myself. That is why the titles of my first two e-novels begins with the word “‘Loonies.” It is part of my world view that there is something loony about humanity, with how we think, our actions, and so on. Whether we recognize it or not we are kind of funny in a weird way.

So I write without thinking. I write with what is coming out of my head, entering my characters mouths’ giving me the opportunity to blame them for their actions or inactions. Consider these two phrases; “He who hesitates is lost?” and “To thine own self be true?” They apply to writing. Don’t think, just let you mind flow and be who you are. I write what I write in the way I write because that is who I am. It will work for you as well. So go trap a tiger.

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Ray Bradbury’s Zen exercise for writers

In his book “Zen and the Art of Writing” Ray Bradbury wrote that at one time in his career he began to make a list of titles. They were simply nouns done without thinking, trusting his subconscious. For example he used this list: The Lake. The Night. The Crickets. The Ravine. The Attic. The Basement. The Trapdoor. The Baby. The Crowd. The Night Train. The Fog. The Horn. The Scythe. The Carnival. The Carousel. The Dwarf. The Mirror Maze. The Skeleton.

He did this to discover who he was as a writer. He learned about himself from these lists because they came out of his subconscious, reminding himself of things from his childhood. And some of them were scary.

What he would do was to take one of the titles and begin to write a long prose poem based on the chosen title. He said about the second page, the poem changed into a story as a character would inject himself into the poem-story and a story grew out of the poem. In the last title listed above-The Skeleton-he remembered as a child drawing skeletons and showing them to his female cousins to scare them. He then goes on to say how he came to write a short story in a few hours.

The point is that his unconscious writing of lists would reveal hidden memories within them and his stories flowed out of the exercise. And many times he did not need to begin with a prose poem.

Just as you can’t be being who you are, you can’t help writing what you write. Unless you are Elmore Leonard and can write in every genre with equanimity, but few of us are that adept. Lets me use The Baby as an example. Some may write a story about a baby dying in infancy and how the family copes  with the tragedy. Can the family stay together? Some may write a suspense story about a kidnapping of a baby. Others might write a comic novel wherein the baby is narrating about how he sees the new world around him. For me, being an old-time baseball fan, I see a story about a bonus baby player who does not live up to expectations, his career spiraling downward, rejected by the game, by friends, and what the player does to redeem himself.

Even if you know what type of writer you are, it is a good exercise to find story ideas. And after you  make a list-done without thinking-and examine what each word mean to you-you may open doors into yourself, doors that open to something unexpected about yourself. I hope it doesn’t scare you. If it does, then write horror stories.

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Ray Bradbury’s trick for writers

You never know where you find things. I have an e-book on my Kindle entitled “Manage your Day-to-Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus, and Sharpen Your Creative Mind.” The title says it all. It is a self-help book for creative people, primarily writers with lots of tips from writers, creative gurus, and assorted assortments with the intent of getting your writing and routine kick started.

In the book Ray Bradbury says the following:

“In my early twenties I floundered into a word-association process in which I simply got out of bed each morning, walked to my desk, and put down any word or series of words that happened along in my head.

The Lake. The Night. The Crickets. The Ravine. The Attic. The Basement. The Trapdoor. The Baby. The Crowd. The Night Train. The Fog Horn. The Scythe. The Carnival. The Carousel. The Dwarf. The Mirror maze. The skeleton.

I would then take arms against the word, or for it, and bring on an assortment of characters to weigh the word and show me its meaning in my own life. An hour or two hours later, to my amazement, a new story would be finished and done.” *

I have read about word association in other books and used a variation of it on my e-novel in progress when I was stuck on where the story would move next. It worked.

While the book offers examples that are simple to follow, and while the book is useful for writers, in the end no matter what Stephen King says about starting the days routine or Bradbury says about word association, or any motivation guru says, in the end it is up to you, the writer, to you the creative well, to do what you must do. You must set aside the time and find your inspiration, your motivation to pound the keyboard.

*Glei, Jocelyn K.; 99U (2013-05-21). Manage Your Day-to-Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus, and Sharpen Your Creative Mind (The 99U Book Series) (Kindle Locations 1203-1205). Amazon Publishing. Kindle Edition.



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My Interview with a book

Just for the record you are a book with paper pages, the back-in-the-day book, the kind that existed before e-books.

Yes, I came from pulp, which came from a tree, quite a long process. I don’t understand e-books, they are like aliens from another planet or something.

How does it feel when you first get to a bookstore?

Oh, I just love it, especially when readers see me, pull me off the shelf or from the display, flip my pages, then stop, look around, and when no one is watching, they put their nose into my crease and sniff the newness of my fresh font.

some old books i found in the guest room. =]

some old books i found in the guest room. =] (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Frankly, that sounds odd.

Not for me, it is quite intimate, and intimacy between reader and book is special. I love being read in bed. I like to snuggle too you know.

Well, what don’t you like?

Before I answer that, let me add how much pleasure I get while you are reading me. As you read me, I am reading you, watching your expressions, your eyes; I see your eyebrows rise when surprised, see you mouth scowl when something happens in the story you find upsetting. I see you smile when you are happy. I see it all and I love our communication.

What if the reader doesn’t like your story?

Oh please, let’s not go there. Moving on, you asked about what I don’t like. I am leery when people eat when they read me. I hate when crumbs fall into my crease. There are slobs who just leave them there as if it means nothing. I nice person would floss my crease. And you have no idea what a ketchup stain does to my self esteem. But I love being read by people who don’t drink coffee. The stain is bad enough, but if you’ve ever spilled hot coffee on yourself, you know why I am no coffee fan.

You care about how you look then?

Of course. Most of all I am concerned with my spine, I am flexible, but don’t crack my spine too hard, for that can cause me excruciating pain. And I have no medical. It is not that I am fragile, but I do want to stay in good shape and have a long life.

Any other worries?

Just one. I am terrified of one book. It contains the scariest story in the history of the world. It terrifies books. My pages shudder when I think of this book.

What book are you talking about?

Ray Bradbury

Ray Bradbury (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ray Bradbury, Miami Book Fair International, 1990

Ray Bradbury, Miami Book Fair International, 1990 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

That book by Ray Bradbury, the one about the book holocaust, “Fahrenheit 451.”

Well that will end my interview on a down note.

Sorry, Oh by the way, don’t leave me near where a dog can grab me. Those sharp teeth biting into me is a real mood killer. And that slobbery drool! And speaking of mood spoiling, imagine being read, then bookmarked and stowed away, opened up and read some more, then bookmarked again; open and close, open and close. Readus interruptus. Ugh! Just finish me will you please.

Okay, time for you to go back on the shelf. Thank you for being with us today and good reading.


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