Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury

3 min read

I have decided to elevate Ray Bradbury to be the grandfather of my literary aesthetic, which is cinematic absurdist.

I found an essay (an interview, really) in this book where he states “all my stories are cinematic. … I may be the most cinematic novelist in the country today. All of my short stories can be shot right off the page. Each paragraph is a shot.” I KNEW there was a reason why I enjoyed his work so much!

all my stories are cinematic - ray bradbury
all my stories are cinematic – ray bradbury

That is how I approach my writing: every dialogue break, every inch of white space, is simply a subtle stage direction to the reader to move the camera that is in their mind’s eye. It sent shivers down my spine when it all came together in my head.

Like me, he never rejected film and movies as a source of inspiration. To me, film is cyclical. You can’t watch a great movie without a great story, and SOMEONE has to write that story first. Why me? Why NOT me? Film condenses universal truths in a teeny tiny amount of artistic space. Short story writers do that too. I almost wish I had read this book sooner, because I think the introduction for my thesis could have used this explanation to flesh out what I was trying to say.

I think he’s one of the few literary novelists who had minor success in Hollywood. I know many other authors who had a helluva time in the industry, and hated the experience very much. Or used it to inform their work (looking at you, Bukowski). To me, Bradbury frolicked in the cinematic environment in many ways. He wrote the bloody screenplay for Moby Dick with John Huston. C’mon.

To be a writer is to be a control freak. We don’t and can’t relinquish that aspect of our art freely. But the thing about making a movie is that you can’t artistically control a film financially or literally once you’ve started down that path. It belongs to the cooks in the kitchen. And there’s a LOT. You have a lot of people to answer to and for. I learned this very quickly, and stopped pursuing my interest in making film when I realized that. My passion for film making is still there and always will be, but it has tamped down into a format that informs the writing voice I’m trying to make for myself. That works much better for me. I’m OK with writing for the screen when it’s ink on a page and the stage is in the reader’s mind.

Which is also what I believe Bradbury was trying to say throughout the collection. The advice he gave made me giggle the whole time, because I’ve tried to incorporate it into my work before I even knew he said it. Again, with the universal truths. When you read books about how to do this thing called writing, they tend to say the same thing. It’s not new.

And write some more.
Groan madly.
Throw it out.
Something new.

See? Cyclical.

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