April 7, 2012

Don’t Think

Ray Bradbury is spectacular. His mind is immense and his advice for other writers is both generous and magnificent.

In 2001, Bradbury spoke at the Sixth Annual Writer’s Symposium by the Sea, sponsored by Point Loma Nazarene University. He was 80 years old at the time. Today is he 91.

During this talk, he says, “Writing is not a serious business, it’s a joy and a celebration. You should be having fun at it. It is not work. If it’s work, stop it and do something else.”

“I’ve never worked a day in my life,” Bradbury says “The joy of writing has propelled me from day to day and year to year. I want you to envy me my joy.”

Bradbury prescribes a routine that includes writing one short story a week. He also suggests that we fill our minds with lots of ideas from all disciplines, and that we read one short story, one poem and one essay each night before bed. He cautions that most modern literature will not suffice, because it is crap. To avoid the crap trap, Bradbury suggests the short stories of Roald Dahl, Guy de Maupassant, John Cheever, Richard Matheson, Nigel Kneel, John Collier, Edith Wharton, Katherine Anne Porter, Eudora Welty, Washington Irving, Herman Melville, Edgar Allen Poe and Nathaniel Hawthorne. He also loves the essays of George Bernard Shaw, and suggests we locate a copy of Do we agree?: A debate between G. K. Chesterton and Bernard Shaw.

Bradbury favors the provocative statement, which make listening to him fun. For instance, he says writers should not attend college. He also says he doesn’t plan, or outline, a story. Rather, he discovers it as he writes.

Bradbury has a sign above his work station that reads “Don’t Think.” This reminds him to keep his intellect at bay, and feel his way through the narrative.

Frankly, I can’t get enough of this wise man’s counsel. Which is why I went from the above video to the following two treasures from the mid-1970s and 1963, respectively.

Another important note from this writer of Fahrenheit 451, Dandelion Wine, and many other books and screenplays deals with the dispatching of doubters. He advises that a writer can’t have any such people in his or her life, and that these friends and/or family must be fired if they insist on negative evaluations of one’s chosen path.

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About David Burn

Writer, strategist and brand builder.

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Literature