Zen in the Art of Writing

As I was lying on that beach in Greece, under the still hot September sun and being very exhausted and very anxious, which seemed like my natural state for the last couple of months, I decided I need some help to get away from my thoughts. Luckily, I had my Kindle with me. Clicking through its pages of content, I didn’t know what I was looking for, but I knew I wanted something that is going to inspire me and get me out of this hole and into a less bleak world. Perhaps one where I can finally enjoy these crystal sea waters and endless blue skies around me. In between pages and pages of Stephen King novels that had to be ignored for the time being, I stumbled upon Ray Bradbury’s Zen in the Art of Writing. Reading it managed not only to provide me with peace of mind, but it also gave me much needed forgotten advice about how to stop feeling so bad.

Zen in the Art of Writing is not a book with advice on writing in the conventional sense, but it’s still a book that every writer would appreciate. In it, Bradbury describes what role writing has played in his life and goes in detail as to how the ideas for his stories come to him. He writes:

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. We must earn life once it has been awarded us. Life asks for rewards back because it as favored us with animation.

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.

I was reading there on the beach, and smiling, and in the moments where I couldn’t contain myself, I called over my boyfriend and read him a passage, as I had to share it with him, because things finally made sense to me. On the topic of what would happen if a writer didn’t write every day, he describes very accurately:

But 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.

For writing allows just the proper recipes of truth, life, reality as you are able to eat, drink, and digest without hyperventilating and flopping like a dead fish in your bed.

So there I was, flopping like a dead fish through life, constantly worried about my future, not knowing where to start and which direction to take and I’ve had the solution all along. I had stopped writing, I can’t even remember the last time I wrote like I used to. All by myself, in the morning with a cup of coffee and the sound of rain, or in the evening with a glass of wine and the sounds of jazz. Or anywhere, in the bus or in the coffee shop, because I knew I had to get this down on paper right now or it would be gone. I knew then that I had to change this. And sure enough, the next day, in the car, travelling on the unknown, winding coastal roads I had an idea for a short story. The first one in a while and I hope, the first of many.

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