Ray Bradbury – Don’t tell anyone what you’re doing!

You don’t learn to write by going to college. You learn to write by writing!…I can’t help you become a writer. No university can help you become a writer.

OK, I think that’s enough of Ray Bradbury, don’t you? It’s been quite a fiesta, hasn’t it? Let’s wrap this up.
There’s a number of themes that Bradbury brings up in almost all of these talks:

  • You learn to write by writing.
  • College can’t teach anyone to write, and college is actually dangerous for creative thought, because it encourages rationalization and intellectualization and tempts the mind to be dishonest and to become estranged from your own, real, true feelings and desires.
  • Don’t let anyone tell you what your tastes should be: read what you love, whatever it is. If it sparks your imagination, fine. Whether it’s “high-brow” or “low-brow” shouldn’t make any difference to you (he often gives the example of the Tarzan and John Carpenter stories he read as a boy which no college course will put on its reading list and which no college library will stock on its shelves, yet they sparked a lifelong love of imaginative fiction in Bradbury).
  • Dredge your subconscious. This can be done by just writing, and then finding out (after several pages or hours) what you really feel or think about a subject. (That reminds me of a quote attributed to E.M. Forster: “How can I know what I think [about a subject] until I see what I say [write]!” – a discussion of the origin of this quote is here.)
    • This is important for your mental, psychological and emotional (perhaps even spiritual!) health. Writing is a purifying act. Without “throwing up” these tensions, they will turn in on you and destroy you.
  • You write to discover yourself, to surprise yourself, to find yourself, your real, true, secret self. It’s the same purpose you should have when you go to a library or a used-book store.
  • Do what you love and love what you do. Don’t sell out. It won’t work. Your own body will revolt against you!
  • And, finally, keep your ideas to yourself – don’t tell others what you’re working on!

If you liked these videos by Bradbury on the art of writing, you might enjoy his book Zen in the Art of Writing: Essays on Creativity, Expanded

“Every morning I jump out of bed and step on a land mine. The land mine is me. After the explosion, I spend the rest of the day putting the pieces back together. Now, it’s your turn. Jump!”


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