The strength of Ray Bradbury’s ZEN IN THE ART OF WRITING: ESSAYS ON CREATIVITY is the insight he provides into the art and psychology of being a writer. This is not a how-to-write or how-to-get-published book, and if you go into it with those expectations you will be disappointed.
Bradbury talks about his own journey as an artist, and provides advice on how to keep the writing muse alive and happy. Whenever I feel blah as a writer, I find picking up this book and reading an essay or two shakes me out of it quickly. Here’s what he has to say about the joy of writing:
…if you are writing without zest, without gusto, without love, without fun, you are only half a writer. It means you are so busy keeping one eye on the commercial market, or one ear peeled for the avant-garde coterie, that you are not being yourself. You don’t even know yourself. For the first thing a writer should be is–excited.
He also makes the best argument I’ve read (and I’ve read way too many writing craft books) for why it’s important to write a thousand words per day:
Quantity gives experience. From experience alone can quality come.
All arts, big and small, are the elimination of waste motion in favor of the concise declaration.
The artist learns what to leave out.
The surgeon knows how to go directly to the source of trouble, how to avoid wasted time and complications.
The athlete learns how to conserve power and apply it now here, now there, how to utilize this muscle, rather than that.
Is the writer different? I think not.
Bradbury also provides wonderful advice for brainstorming story ideas, but you’ll have to read the book to find out about that (look for the essay “Run Fast, Stand Still…”).