Bradbury Advice

I initially went onto the Paris Review website and searched for the names of a couple authors I have read.  Nothing.  Okay, so I needed a new method for picking a writer.  I looked through all the interviewee names in alphabetical order, and while I recognized many of the names, I unfortunately could only pick out 2-3 people who’s writing I’ve actually read.  Whoops, maybe I need to read some more classic pieces of writing…..

I selected Ray Bradbury because I remembered reading Fahrenheit 451 in high school and really enjoying the book.  I’m really glad I decided to read Bradbury’s interview, because he seemed to have a totally different perspective of writing than the other writers that we had read in class with the “Why I Write” prompt.

What really struck me about Bradbury was how blunt, and matter-of-fact he seems.  He seems to have been a very logical, methodical guy who didn’t really fit the stereotypical emotionally distraught, confused, suffering for his art, writer persona.  Compared to the other writers we read about in class, he seemed to have a fairly easy time writing.  “I don’t understand writers who have to work at it”, Bradbury said, citing his  ability to formulate an entire story within a matter of hours once he has an idea down.

Bradbury however was not a born talent.  While he never went to college, he said he learned everything he knew by reading books at the library for years until he deemed himself “graduated from the library”.  He read all different authors, and all different types of writing.  He said it’s important to study how other writers use poetry, novels, essays etc. to accomplish what they’re trying to say.  I feel like I need to take this advice to heart, as I think my writing could be greatly improved simply by reading more- a lot more.

Something that was really intriguing to me was the way that Bradbury came up with his ideas.  He said he would begin by writing down lists of nouns.  The nouns that you write down ultimately come from the combination of all past moments and events you’ve experienced in your life.  Once you have your list of nouns, then go back over the list and ask yourself what each word means to you.  Why did you write it down? What does it mean for me? He said he never used a notebook to write down ideas.  If he wasn’t writing down a list of nouns, the moment he had an idea, he would just immediately stop what he was doing and turn it into a poem, short story, or novel.  No outlines, no roadmap, just start writing.

I really like this method that he describes, and I think I am going to challenge myself to try this.  I’ll make myself write down five nouns every day for the next week & see what I come up with.  Maybe something completely genius, maybe something completely bizarre, but I think it’s a really intriguing way to think about ideas and beginning a piece of writing.  Maybe it will end up working out for me!

Lastly I just wanted to document two quotes that really stuck out to me.  I like how they speak to the “just do it” attitude Bradbury seemed to have had & an attitude I really admire:

“Jump off the cliff and build your wings on the way down.”

“I don’t believe in optimism.  I believe in optimal behavior.  If you behave every day to the top of your genetics, what can you do?”

3 thoughts to “Bradbury Advice”

  1. Hi Lexie!
    I thought the same thing as I read through the names of the authors; I only recognized a few. Now I’m determined to read more well-known authors so that I can pay attention to their writing.
    From what you’ve written, Bradbury does seem very matter-of-fact. He almost seems condescending to me, because I have a very hard time writing. I’m definitely not a natural, and even if I had “graduated from the library,” I still don’t think writing would flow for me. I do, however, liked how he talked about his practice of writing down nouns and seeing what he could create from them. I think it would be really interesting to see if that worked for you!

  2. Hey Lexie,

    I kind of wish I chose this interview now haha. First off, I felt the same way looking through the list of options. There were a bunch of famous writers, and I didn’t know the majority of them. So I agree. I need to read more, a lot more. It’s kind of funny that I chose my interview partly because the writer said he was modest, because I really like that Bradbury embraces the fact that writing comes naturally and free-flowing to him. I think it’s awesome that you’re going to challenge yourself to try one of Bradbury’s strategies, even if it is in moderation. Pretty inspiring step to take, I gotta try something like that too.

  3. Hi Lexie!

    Bradbury was one of few author’s I recognized as well, so maybe we ought to hit the library and read some classics. According to Bradbury’s standards, I doubt we have ‘graduated from the library.” Then again, I do not know how much i like that comment in the first place. I’d like to think none of us will ever “graduate from the library.” There is always more to read, more to learn.

    Anyways, I also wanted to address his comment: “I don’t understand writers who have to work at it.” Quite frankly this pissed me off. I feel as if it was unnecessary for him to say something like that, but I suppose my anger may be being fueled by jealousy, which is making me attempt to ignore the rage. Haha. I did, however, really like one of the quotes you closed with, reading, “Jump off the cliff and build your wings on the way down.” I figure I should take his advice and who knows maybe it will help me have an easier time writing like he does.

    Finally, I am interested in Bradbury’s strategy on starting to write. Beginning by writing down lists of nouns is something I simply have never thought to do, and I agree with you that it could very well spark something bizarre though also has the potential to bring to mind something brilliant. I plan to join you trying it out! We’ll see, I suppose.

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