If you are writing without zest, without gusto, without love, without fun, you are only half a writer. It means you are so busy keeping one eye on the commercial market, or one ear peeled for the avant-garde coterie, that you are not being yourself. You don’t even know yourself.
~RAY BRADBURY, author of Zen in the Art of Writing
You say you’re a madman. How long have you been in this state of mind? It sounds pretty wonderful
Oh. Since I was nine or ten. You learn to live with your crazy enthusiasms, which nobody else shares. And then you find a few other nuts like yourself, and they’re your friends for a lifetime. That’s what friends are. They’re people who share your crazy outlook and protect you from the world, you know, ‘cuz nobody else is gonna give a damn what you are doing. So you need a few other people like yourself.
Do you feel you have to be protected from the world that surrounds you?
While you’re growing, sure, because you’re tender and you doubt yourself. Friendship is an island that you retreat to, and you all fall on the floor and laugh at all the other ninnies who don’t have enough brains to have your good taste, right?
We had an article in our newspaper and it said Ray Bradbury has never driven a car or been in an airplane. Is that true?
That’s right. What do you think I’m doing here in the back seat?
So you’ve never in your whole life ever driven?
Never have been behind the wheel.
Why is that?
Oh. It seemed a good idea. That’s all.
Are you scared of cars?
Oh. I’m scared of myself. I think I’d be a bad driver. I’m scared of cars. Period. I’ve had too many friends killed now and I’ve seen too many people killed in my life when I drove across the country when I was 12. I’m sure it has to do a lot with it. If you see a few real dead bodies with brains on the pavement, it does a lot to change your attitude. It means you can get it, too, you know? I’ve had a lot of relatives killed. I’ve had a lot of dear friends killed. It’s stupid. The whole activity is stupid.
Why don’t you like to go in airplanes? Are you scared of them, too?
I don’t like being up high. It took me three days to get to the top of the Eiffel Tower.
So, you do write, you know, very realistically
Well, it’s a combination of realism with fantasy. But no, I don’t like realism because we already know the real facts about life, most of the basics facts. I’m not interested in repeating what we already know. We know about sex, about violence, about murder, about war. All these things by the time we’re 18, we’re up to here. From then on, we need interpreters, we need poets, we need philosophers, we need theologians, who take the same basic facts and work with them and help us make due with those facts. Facts alone are not enough. It’s interpretation.
We’d like to know how you go about writing a story. Like, do you take other people’s opinions and where do you get your ideas?
You don’t pay any attention to anything anyone else says. No opinions. The important thing is to explode with the story, to emotionalize the story, not to think it. If you start thinking, the story is gonna die on its sheet. And it’s like anything else. If an athlete is running around the high hurdles, let’s say, and he starts thinking about the next hurdle, now he’s doomed. He’s gonna knock it down. People who take books on sex to bed become frigid, you know. You get self-conscious. You can’t think a story. You can’t think ‘ I shall do a story to improve mankind’ Well, you know, that’s nonsense.
All the great stories, all the really worthwhile plays, are emotional experiences. If you have to ask yourself whether or not you love a girl or you love a boy, forget it. You don’t. You know. So a story is the same way. You either feel a story and need to write it, or you better not write it.
Did you have any formal training in writing of any type?
Not formal, no. But I am a dedicated madman, and that becomes its own training. If you can’t resist, if the typewriter is like candy to you, you train yourself for a lifetime. Every single day of your life, some wild new thing to be done. You write to please yourself. You write for the joy of writing. And then your public reads you and it begins to gather around your selling a potato peeler in an alley, you know.
The enthusiasm, the joy itself draws me. So that means everyday of my life I’ve written. When the joy stops, I’ll stop writing.
Complement it with Zen in the art of writing.