Apr 30, 2010

Z is for Zen

Got Zen?

There is that list of popular books on the craft of writing that get bandied about frequently. Being the happy little consumer that I am, I buy them all. One such book is Ray Bradbury's Zen in the Art of Writing, hosting a collection of essays on the craft and one essay sharing the book's title.

I've had this book on my shelf for a while now, and admit I read this essay last night because of the Z factor, but it didn't take long for the truth of Bradbury's words to really touch me.

Bradbury tells us the elements of writing are work, relaxation and 'don't think!', this is what will bring you to a attitude of Zen (Buddhist belief that practicing meditation, self-contemplation and intuition will bring you enlightenment). Writing towards financial gain or fame are false goals and begets a product which is a lie. For writing to be worthwhile it must be truthful, come from what you feel and not be a manipulated outcome aimed at a lucrative market. I can accept this philosophy because it fits with my own on life matters: 'nurture the relationship you have with yourself and others, everything else, belonging, love, happiness, money etc will sort itself out.'

The essay also makes good points about getting into the creative flow by first working through the chore. The only way to improve writing is to write, "Quantity gives experience. From experience alone can quality come." Writers should not look at discarded works as failures, but as studies towards perfecting their art. "Work is done. If good, you learn from it. If bad, you learn even more."

The way we bring truth to our art is to "don't think", allow your subconscious to create and your fingers to transcribe. Bradbury points out that a surgeon can not consider the money as an athlete can not focus on the crowd when they each perform. It is only the act that matters.

If you can gain this perspective on your writing then relaxation will follow, because the writing becomes a natural extension of your truth and no longer a task or chore. Bradbury puts it simply:
"There is no failure unless one stops."


  1. Wonderful post! :o) We've finished hehehe well done XXXXX

  2. Hi, I'm not familiar with Zen, but I guess it is okay. by the way, I love the picture of the dog at the top of your blog! He looks so giddy.

  3. Niki - Yes - back to 3 posts a week for me! You did well to make everyone fall in love with NZ for your posts! :-)
    Grammy - Thank you, the picture is of Zoe my Border Collie, she's shy but sweet (unless the nasty little monster dog attacks her, but that's another story).

  4. Interesting post. I've enjoyed your A to Z Challenge contributions.

    Thoughts in Progress

  5. I really need to take the advice to "not think" to heart. I think far too much while I'm writing.

    Thanks for the great post and have a great weekend!

  6. I really like the philosophy in the essay. Now I have another book to put on my wish list! :)

  7. That is true about writing for the sake of loving the art...and not for gain.

  8. That was a great post! I could have used that essay on Monday. I'm going to go out and get that book so I have that essay on hand next time I get into a writerly funk. Thanks for sharing this.

  9. Wow, this was a thought-provoking post. Writing is the act in itself - *thoughtful!

  10. Great post. Congrats on making it to the end of the challenge. :)

  11. Write for the heart and not the wallet, words I live by. I am never disappointed that way.

    Interesting post, thanks. The book is one I might invest in.

  12. I've read many of Bradbury's novels and short stories, and I never associated him with being Zen. Still, this is something I'd like to read.

  13. Great wrap up to the challenge. Congratulations you made it!

  14. Great post and thanks for sharing, this book!
    I also did Zen! I agree, if we don't listen to our heart, it isn't authentic! A reader can tell, when it isn't real...

    Congrats on crossing the A-Z finish line!

  15. Mason, thanks, the A-Z challenge was hard work but fun.
    Jaydee, 'not thinking' comes pretty natural to me ;-)
    Janel, I do recommend the book, the essays are light and easy to read but quite motivational, sorry if I've helped lengthen your book wish list.
    Raquel, I agree, if you write for gain then you're manipulating your text to suit that purpose, it's just not natural.
    Angie, I don't know if reading really helps us get out of writing funks or just lets us forget them for a bit, but it is fun to have distractions :-)
    Elaine, thanks, I'm working my way up to the 'thoughtful' level - still stuck on 'don't think' ;-)
    Sarahjayne, thanks, phew that's it? no more hidden letters? *collapses on floor* Wake me for the next challenge.
    Glynis, it's the only way to be :-)
    Medeia, I think the 'Zen' idea came from a trend of Zen books out at the time, but he certainly backs up his title in this one. I'll have to look out for his other books.
    Wanda, thanks, and thanks for the support you've constantly offered :-)
    Ellie, thanks, I've enjoyed your posts, you put a lot of work into them.