To prep for National November Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) this year, I’ve decided to reread the books and stories that make me feel compelled to write. We’ll see how many I get through before the end of November, but the first book on my list was Ray Bradbury’s Zen in the Art of Writing.
Zen in the Art of Writing: Essays on Creativity was the first writing advice book I picked up and devoured several years ago. I always enjoy reading Bradbury’s conversational, poetic prose, and the book isn’t terribly long, either—fewer than 200 pages. Zen in the Art of Writing is a compilation of essays and poems Bradbury wrote about writing, which makes the book easy to break down into short bursts of reading. The essays were all published between 1960 and 1990, and although some references in them feel dated (like windows into history), the core messages about how to motivate yourself and stay motivated all still feel incredibly relevant.
I’d recommend Zen in the Art of Writing to anyone who 1) is looking for an accessible book on how to write that can be picked up and put down readily and 2) finds the quotes I’ve cited below inspiring.
Some of my favorite quotes from Zen in the Art of Writing:
“And what, you ask does writing teach us? First and foremost, it reminds us that we are alive and that it is a gift and a privilege, not a right. […] So while our art cannot, as we wish it could, save us from wars, privation, envy, greed, old age, or death, it can revitalize us amidst it all. Secondly, writing is survival. Any art, any good work, of course, is that. Not to write, for many of us, is to die.” – p. xii
“[…] what would happen is that the world would catch up with and try to sicken you. If you did not write every day, the poisons would accumulate and you would begin to die, or act crazy, or both. You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.” – p. xiii
“Every morning I jump out of bed and step on a landmine. The landmine is me. After the explosion, I spend the rest of the day putting the pieces together. Now, it’s your turn. Jump!” – p. xv
“Be certain of this: When honest love speaks, when true admiration begins, when excitement rises, when hate curls like smoke, you need never doubt that creativity will stay with you for a lifetime.” – p. 43
“What is the greatest reward a writer can have? Isn’t it that day when someone rushes up to you, his face bursting with honesty, his eyes afire with admiration and cries, ‘That new story of yours was fine, really wonderful!’ Then and only then is writing worthwhile.” – p. 142
“The time will come when your characters will write your stories for you, when your emotions, free of literary cant and commercial bias, will blast the page and tell the truth.” – p. 152