This book is fourteen years old. It isn’t the next big thing or a surefire way to make truck loads of money on the internet. It is a simply written, engaging conversation on the subjects of writing and creativity. Ray Bradbury’s Zen In The Art Of Writing is, hands down, the most beautifully written book about writing that I have ever had the pleasure of reading.
I studied creative writing for a couple of years (I didn’t graduate so I won’t tell you which school it was) and read six or seven craft books on various styles of writing. I learned a lot while in school, and first started to get my writing legs but the craft books were a responsible for a very small percentage of that.
In January of 2011 I went on vacation for two weeks to the smallest of the US Virgin Islands, St. John. If you ever get a chance to go, do it. We stayed in a run down hostel that turned out to be our personal heaven. Sadly, Botanical Villas went out of business about a year later, but we don’t need to get into that here.
I read a lot while we were there and ran through all six of the books I brought with me in the first week. Every day we hitchhiked into town for groceries, and we often stopped at the used book store that was inside the same mall area. I can’t remember the name of the place but it was tiny and crammed from floor to ceiling with paperbacks. At least half of the books in the store were either romance novels or travel guides, most of them with puffy, sand filled spines.
My lovely boyfriend found Zen In The Art Of Writing crammed in with the science fiction and fantasy; a set of three bulging shelves in the back corner next to the espresso bar. Knowing me like he does, he gave it to me. You may have noticed my fondness for Mister Bradbury is previous posts (http://aredinkling.com/2013/03/19/we-are-the-martians-a-grossly-inadequate-attempt-to-honor-a-genius/ ) but let me impress upon you the extremity of my fondness for his work. It’s serious. My dad first read me The MArtian Chronicles when I was really young, probably six or seven. He probably read it to me three times and I’ve read it at least once every year or two since. So I’m a fan.
I read Zen In The Art Of Writing for the first time slowly, devouring every word. It took me about three days, even though it’s only 152 pages. I finished on the plane. And then I read it again, in just a few hours before the plane touched down in the snow. On the first read I took in every minute detail of what Bradbury had to say, letting each word marinate and unravel in my mind. On the second read, it was poetry. I read for the flow and the musical words and the sparkling pinnacles of inspiration.
Bradbury shares his personal journey to respected author-hood, weaving the tale of his childhood with the same twisted shimmer of his published stories. It is beautiful writing that inspires the passion to write beautifully. Bradbury takes money out of the equation. He writes because it is who he is, he simply must write. This book helped me to remember that I was one of those people too. It is so easy to get distracted, to get caught up in building a career and forget that we used to enjoy what we are doing.
It helped that I read Zen In The Art Of Writing fresh off of two weeks in the sun; I was already in a very free, creative place. But that first time and every time I have read it since, Zen has felt not so much like a book to me, but like a detox for my creativity. I read it whenever I need to remember how to clear out all the crap and just write.