Zen in the Art of Writing Mass Market Paperback – 1 Jan 1920
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In this book Ray talks of the creative process. The book is actually a collection of essays written over a period of over twenty years. Though he describes creativity directed at the process of writing, the lessons and ideas have a much broader relevance.
Ray reveals some how-to's including the simple idea of capturing key words to describe ideas in a notebook. He describes how sometimes these key words have lay dormant in his notebook, even for decades, before they have been the spark for a story, almost as if as keys they waited for him to realise the ideas they represented.
For me however the main feature revealed is the immense passion associated with creativity. The book exudes this passion through the use of sometimes exquisite language which captures the essence of a life of creative change.
"I have not so much thought my way through life, as done things and found out what it was and who I was after doing it."
On later realising why he chose particular names for characters in a story, he writes "What a sly thing my subconscious was to name them thus. And not to tell me,"
On ideas he writes "I'd thought that you could beat, pummel and thrash an idea into existence. Under such treatment, of course any decent idea folds up its paws, turns on its back, fixes its eyes on eternity and dies."
A book that captures something of the real magic of creativity
The title and subtitle may raise false expectations, though. This book is not about 'Zen', and it's not about 'Releasing the Creative Genius Within You'. It's not about *your* writing and *your* genius, but about Bradbury's. As long as you understand that, it's good.
It's not really a book about the mechanics of writing or story composition - it is a collection of essays that Ray Bradbury wrote for various publications in years gone by and "Zen in the Art of Writing" is simply the title of one of these essays. During my first read read through this book I was disappointed to find that it seemed to be just a billboard for the short stories he has written. There's a lot of "This happened and I thought of that and became inspired to write this". And because I had not heard of many of these stories, I could not even link his experience to the story and have that moment of "Aah, so that's what was behind it".
Some of the content is useful in that you think that he offers techniques that you can perhaps play with. But I didn't expect that this book would be so autobiographical which is why I'm giving it 3 stars. However, the book is well-written and it may have got a higher rating from me if I had read it with different expectations.
I will keep this book to read again. You do get a sense that there is something inspiring lurking under the surface and I hope that one day I will pick the book up and be ready to receive the inspiration that is there.