A few months ago, I went on a bit of a shopping spree at the bookstore. I was craving a deep dive back into the craft of writing, so I splurged on a handful of recent novels and a variety of craft books that I hoped would get me back into the right mindset to write. I've been making my way through the stack and it has been quite helpful in keeping me moving right along in my quest to write and publish a novel.
One of the craft books I purchased was Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury. I've read a few of Bradbury's books - Farenheit 451, The Martian Chronicles, and The Illustrated Man - so I was interested to read what he had to say about the art of writing. I was also drawn in by the title, as I've recently begun a regular mediation practice and was curious to see how Zen played into his thoughts on writing. (Writing Down the Bones, which I wrote about here, actually has more in the way of Zen practices tied to writing for those that are interested.)
In general, I would say that this book is not my favorite of the craft books that I have read. This is because the essays in it mainly focus on how Bradbury's ideas came to be or what he was thinking when he wrote certain pieces. The book as a whole seems more targeted toward fans of his work than those who hope to write their own stories.
That being said, there were two passages that stood out to me. The first is about finding beauty and meaning in unexpected circumstances:
"In other words, if your boy is a poet, horse manure can only mean flowers to him; which is, of course, what horse manure has always been about."
The second quote is also about beauty and how we as writers find and create beauty in the world:
"We never sit anything out.
We are cups, constantly and quietly being filled.
The trick is, knowing how to tip ourselves over and let the beautiful stuff out."
As writers, this is what we need to remember. That everything we experience, all of the seemingly mundane aspects of our daily lives can be turned into something beautiful, if only we can figure out how to filter out the extras and let the beautiful parts out into the world.
If you're a fan of Bradbury's work and want to begin a writing career, I'd recommend this book. If you're not as familiar with Bradbury's work, I would argue that there are other craft books out there that do a good job of appealing to a variety of writers, but there are some gems here too if you are willing to look.