Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Ray Bradbury Revisited

what's taking me so long to sift through my old files and books and rearrange them is that not only do i wipe each file, each book, lovingly, i open most of them and browse through old notes to my self, old underlined words, and remember who i was then, what i was thinking about, and how they have brought me to who i am, where i am now.

right now, i am taking my nth break from my "work" to digest things, even as i think about what i want to do next for the coming year.

right now, i am feeling quite glum for not making it to the two writing contests i applied to and was so excited about a few months ago (i just learned of the results today when i Google-searched for them again for the nth time, too), but i also feel the building up of a steel resolve to do better, to study my craft better, even get into the only national writing workshop for children's lit here by preparing for it well, and continue writing my stories anyway and telling my truth, win or no win in contests.

ive just come across an old beloved book by Ray Bradbury, Zen in The Art of Writing, and an old unsent letter to Mr. Bradbury falls out from the pages. it was from me at 26, wife, young mother, businessperson... but oh so lost about who she was then and slowly dying inside. i remember now how this book made me secretly cry copious tears, even as it slowly healed me and encouraged me to pick up my pen again, even if only by writing in my diaries, and find my own voice again, and write my way through my life again.

it has been 11 years since then. ive not only made a shift in my life's work from business to education, where i can be closer to books and writing, but have even made a part-time freelance career out of my writing, become a fellow to two national writing workshops, won a national writing award for my first children's story, and had my first book published to critical acclaim. the best thing, always, is people coming up to me and telling me how my writing has touched them in some way.

so i shouldnt feel so glum, but i still do. i guess there is the thought at the back of my mind that im not good enough for more, that maybe this is the end, that i shouldnt even dream about making writing my life's work (how dare i?), that even if i loved writing with a passion, writing may not love me back similarly... : (

picking up Bradbury's book again, erased all those doubts away, though, and renewed me.

here are now some excerpts from the book, which i not only underlined in red, but marked with a star even, to remind me of my deepest loves and passions--literature, writing, living, a constant wondrous inquiring into life and human nature...

- Stay alive! Yell. Jump. Play. Out-run those sons-of-bitches. They'll never live the way you live. Go do it.

- Not to write, for many of us, is to die. ... 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.

- 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 your self.

- Do not, for money, turn away from all the stuff you have collected in a lifetime. Do not, for the vanity of intellectual publications, turn away from what you are-- the material within you which makes you individual, and therefore, indispensable to others.

- To fail is to give up. But you are in the midst of a moving process. Nothing fails then. All goes on. Work is done. If good, you learn from it. If bad, you learn even more. Work done and behind you is a lesson to be studied. There is no failure unless one stops. Not to work is to cease, tighten up, become nervous, and therefore, destructive of the creative process. We are working not for work's sake. What we are trying to do is find a way to release the truth that lies in all of us.

- How does one get lost? Through incorrect aims... Through wanting literary fame too quickly. From wanting money too soon. If only we could remember, fame and money are gifts given us only after we have gifted the world with our best, our lonely, our individual truths. Now we must build a better mousetrap, heedless if a path is being beaten to our door.

- What do you think of the world? You, the prism, measure the light of the world; it burns through your mind to throw a different spectroscopic reading onto white paper than anyone else can throw. Let the world burn through you. Throw the prism light, white hot, on paper. Make your own individual spectroscopic reading.

- Go dig the Troy in you!
thank you again, Ray, for reminding me of what i am about.

and so, i will continue to write even more, and write even better, this time.

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