Zen in the Art of Writing

513bmaahpkl-_ac_ul320_sr210320_Can’t say I go out of my way to look for books on writing, these days at least, but this one sort of fell into my lap.

The other night, after finishing Jeff Smith’s, BONE, which I was reading for a elementary school Graphic Novel Book Club I’m leading, I began to swipe through the catalog available on Hoopla. (LA County Library grants access to Hoopla with your library card. Bonus books!)

It was late, and I needed to sleep–but wasn’t tired enough to go to bed. Actually, it was one of those night when I didn’t want to sleep, because I didn’t want it to be tomorrow. Has that ever happened to you? Anyway, I laying on the sofa, swiping through Hoopla’s ebook selection, and find… “Zen in the Art of Writing,” by the late, great Ray Bradbury.

At this moment, I’m about 1/2 way through. Yes, I should wait until I’m completely done to form a full opinion–but there was this one scene in there… this one moment that has stuck with me.

Bradbury is discussing how he enjoying keeping lists of nouns. These list have lead to titles like, “Something Wicked this way Comes,” or his short story, “The Dwarf.” He was remembering years ago, living in his parents house in Illinois, where the bathroom was on the second floor. Every night he would wake up from the need to use the bathroom, but to get there–he would have to climb the dark stairs up a level  in order to turn on the light to get to the bathroom in the first place.

Ray Bradbury hated it. On his list he added “The Thing,” because to him, something wicked lived at the top of those stairs and it was going to kill him.

Each night he’s lay in bed contemplating how long he could hold it. The he’d pull himself out of bed, climbs the stairs, only to fall back down–waking his parents in the process. His father would ignore him, and his mother would help him up, turn on the light, and kiss him on the head every night.

This only brought him more inspiration.

Sometimes it’s hard to see where ideas come from. Maybe you find them in a book you’re reading, or a show you’ve seen. Maybe it’s from a list, like Bradbury, or something you read in an old journal–something you forgotten.

As I said above, I never intended to read another book on writing–not right now. A ‘how-to’ to get my juices flowing–yet here I am. Pretty much the same way I found out where Ray Bradbury is buried–I didn’t go in search of him. His name wasn’t even mentioned when I was asked to take visiting family to see “where Marilyn’s grave is,” but there I was–standing over a plot so fresh there wasn’t a tombstone and the sod was still waiting to take hold.

“That’s Ray Bradbury’s grave,” a random person said, leaving me to stare at the earth.

It makes me wonder, maybe Ray Bradbury is my spirit writing guide? Or maybe I’ve been lucky enough to have not one, but two serendipitous moments that forced me to question his art.

I suppose that is the beauty of art, how non-conformed or predictable it is. Inspiration lies in myriad places, waiting for you to swipe to find them, fall down the stairs into their arms, or walk directly into their arms.

And as I struggle forward, at least I am still moving forward. And while I didn’t set out to find a book on writing, at least one that resonates with me dropped in my path. Signs are funny things–they’re pretty much whatever you decided them to be. So, maybe it is serendipitous. Why? Because I need it to be.

 

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