Ray Bradbury, one of my favorite sci-fi writers, had a huge influence on my reading habits during my young developmental years. Recently read a very good article discussing some of his thoughts on writing. Worth reading, especially if you write.
A couple of the remarks he made struck home with me.
Don’t think too hard:
The intellect is a great danger to creativity . . . because you begin to rationalize and make up reasons for things, instead of staying with your own basic truth—who you are, what you are, what you want to be. I’ve had a sign over my typewriter for over 25 years now, which reads “Don’t think!” You must never think at the typewriter—you must feel. Your intellect is always buried in that feeling anyway.
-from a 1974 interview with James Day
Writers’ block is just a warning that you’re doing the wrong thing:
What if you have a blockage and you don’t know what to do about it? Well, it’s obvious you’re doing the wrong thing, aren’t you? . . . You’re being warned, aren’t you? Your subconscious is saying I don’t like you anymore. You’re writing about things I don’t give a damn for. . . If you have writers’ block you can cure it this evening by stopping what you’re doing and writing something else. You picked the wrong subject.
-from “Telling the Truth,” the keynote address of The Sixth Annual Writer’s Symposium by the Sea, sponsored by Point Loma Nazarene University, 2001
I, of course, go through periods where I have trouble writing, at least on in-progress novels. So, this “what the hell are you doing” comment about writers’ block seemed very appropriate. I like his simplicity. If it ain’t working, try something else. Too often when I get bogged down in a story, I consider that fault to be me, and it’s critical that I correct my block as a personal failing. Bradbury is suggesting it just a bad story, and you should move on to something else. I have trouble abandoning my efforts in that it feels like giving up. A failure. Could be his approach is better, will have to give that more thought.
The “don’t over think” remark also fits well in my world. There are times I completely over think everything I’m doing. My best work was when I “felt” the story in an emotional way and the words just came. I think my best novel was The Bootlegger’s Legacy. Once I got started on that book it just seemed to almost write itself. Had a little trouble at first, but once it was going it was basic truth at its best. The characters had meaning to me. I knew them, and it was easy to tell their story.
The Bradbury book that had the most influence on me as a teenager was Fahrenheit 451. It had been published in 1953, but it was in the 1960s that I first read it. In many ways I did not like the book, but it had influence on how I thought about freedom and my life. The dystopian world he saw in the future was not that relevant to my comfortable world of the 1960s, but the threat was there to consider. The book is probably much more relevant today than when Bradbury wrote it.
Sci-Fi was my genre of choice when I was younger. Later in life, my favorite books are all mystery. But as a young man the Sci-Fi writers seem to have a clear vision into human existence, even it if it was fifty years in the future.
Like the main character in Fahrenheit 451, the human excuse of “I was just doing my job,” has been at the center of much misery. The sad part of that reality is that the people committing atrocities because it’s their job are good people. I think that is why we can often identify with these trapped souls. Really evil people exist in books and real life, but they are few compared with the “good” people doing bad stuff. That’s what scares us; we could be that person.
I’ve always been a worrier. Even as a young man, I worried about everything. Much of this is because I spent a great deal of time reading and thinking. The next step after reading and thinking, is worrying. Bradbury’s dystopian world was a great source of worry. Who said reading was not fun?
I still worry, but at some point, it is more habit than dread. While I greatly appreciate Bradbury’ books and short stories; I don’t think I will re-read them. Currently the worry part of my brain is full.