Staying in Love with Ray Bradbury
When Ray Bradbury died I mourned his loss as I would that of an old friend. He changed my life by taking me into the myriad of worlds that he created in his books and short stories, and inspired me to be a writer by his book "Zen in the Art of Writing".
A kindred spirit has exited my world and I'll miss him
It’s a curious thing but when a famous writer dies, somewhere in the world a not-so-famous, or even not at all famous writer, mourns.
Why? Because there are some writers (and I’m one) who experiences the same kind of loss that one feels when a friend dies. It’s like a kindred spirit has exited my world; and I'll miss him like I would miss a friend. He's influenced my life in a positive way, and I feel that I’m a better writer (and even person) because of the impact he had on my life.
One of the books that most affected me was “Fahrenheit 451”---the 1953 book takes place in a world where the written word is outlawed.The protagonist, Montag, is a book burner, and when he steals books destined to be burned, he puts his life in danger. In a world where books are burned, he realizes that the only way to keep the books alive now-and for future generations-is to memorize the great works of literature. He joins a group of people who dedicate their lives to the preservation of books and they become Living Books.
It's been years since I've read Fahrenheit 451 but I think of the need for ‘living books’ every time another old book store closes it doors, Math and Science classes hold sway over literature courses, (There’s a need for both!) people walk out of libraries with more videos under their arms than books, and yet another person claims that there’s no need to read because everything they need to know can be gotten off the internet.
I read once that Bradbury never saw himself as a ‘science fiction writer’ or fantasy writer. He distrusted labels; he claimed he just wrote stories.
I’ve never seen him as a genre writer. For me The Martian Chronicles, reads more like literary fiction than science fiction. (Yes, one can be both) but I do not think of Ray Bradbury as a science fiction (or fantasy) writer.
One of his books that helped me as a writer was “Zen in the Art of Writing.” The book speaks directly to the writer and is an inspiration. Write what you believe in, Bradbury says, write what’s true and do not compromise your craft by writing only for money.
Fall in love and stay in love
A writer, Bradbury once wrote, must ‘fall in love and stay in love’. I think of that as the years pile up and (some days) I wonder if it’s all worth it. Who really cares (but me) about writing; no one reads books anymore, books aren't being published and so on; I rationalize that I'm wasting my good years devoting my life to a ‘job’ that doesn’t exist and has no discernible benefits.
On those self-flagellating days (and nights) I remember part of a poem from Ray Bradbury’s book Zen in the Art of Writing, and it helps me get to the first sentence in my work: “Doing is being. To have done’s not enough; To stuff yourself with doing-that’s the game. To name yourself each hour by what’s done, To tabulate your time at sunset’s gun and find yourself in acts you could not know before the facts…”
I know then that regardless of the outcome of the work, the important thing is the writing of it; Doing is being and it’s not enough (never enough!) to ‘have done’s.’
Or to put in another way the joy must be in the journey and not the destination.