Review of Ray Bradbury’s ‘Zen in the Art of Writing’

Continuing my series of book reviews for writers, this one feels a little meta. A book review for writers of a book on writing. Reading Ray Bradbury’s ‘Zen in the Art of Writing’, I thought the title is meant to be ironic. Bradbury’s mind is like a bullet ricocheting around a room, light-years from Zen! But it is fun.
It is a short book, about 200 pages, and comprises a collection of essays he wrote over decades. I like the initial energy, the call to passion, and loves and hates. He has a busy mind that pinballs between subjects and bounces around all of his early influences. Zest and gusto.
Circuses, fantasy, magicians, monsters, Buck Rogers, Quasimodo. Dickens, Pope, Mark Twain, Melville, Thomas Wolfe, Shaw, Moliere. Poets, painters, musicians. Vigour and vitality. ADHD? The best things and the worst things in life, and shouting about them. What do you love most in the world? Big and little.
I love the passion in his writing. And his defense of Science Fiction and Fantasy against the ‘Literary Fiction Snobs’. I used to read a lot of SF. Clarke, Heinlen, HG Wells. This speaks to me.
He suggests: ‘Write a short story every week. It is impossible to write 52 bad short stories.’ This made me laugh.
But I do like his suggestion to write one thousand words every day. In some ways this echoes Dorothea Brande in ‘Becoming a Writer’, in prescribing creating a habit of writing every day. I am at that point, but it is difficult. Especially writing something creative each day. Does an essay or book review count? I say yes.
It is not a book on craft, but like the Brande book, a book on lifestyle, frame of mind, encouragement and excitement. You can’t read it and not want to pickup a pen or open Scrivener and start writing. So that is a five star book for writers.

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May 22, 2022

Review of Ray Bradbury’s ‘Zen in the Art of Writing’
ISBN 9780795350511