A Monk of the Order of Bradbury

“You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.” – Ray Bradbury

I am a collector of worthless books.  For some unknown, deep-seated, pathological reason, I have the need to hoard large number of books.  Most were purchased for a buck or two from used bookstores and will never have a financial value worthy of their shelf space.

Yet, I love them.  I read them.  I gaze at the spectrum of colors and shapes they produce on my bookshelves.  I shamefully smell their crisp, yellowing pages.  But, I rarely re-read them.

Certainly, I have books I enjoy, even books I love, but with the sort of memory I have, the idea of wasting time reading a book I have already read seems inefficient and clumsy.  The exception has come with two or three particular books.  I enjoy them immensely, but my favorite book of all-time is Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury.

As a reader, I go through spurts of reading a particular writer.  One of my Bradbury spurts happened along at the same time I was really learning to write fiction.  I’ve read countless tomes on grammar, mechanics, plot and structure.  Most were individually forgettable, although I did get some nugget of information from each that will hopefully someday bear fruit.

But Bradbury made me want to write.  He didn’t really tell me how to do it well.  I doubt Ray Bradbury could explain to you why he writes the way he does.  He is simply Bradbury.  But he made me excited to get to a keyboard.  He made me want to find my own landmine to step on, in hopes that when I got myself put back together I would find something great.

I’ve read Zen in the Art of Writing several times now.  Each time I walk away with that feeling, an itch in my fingers to start punching keys, a pressure in my brain that demands to be released into written word should acid run from my ears and steam blow from my eye sockets.

Bradbury made me love writing.  Not the finished product, the beautiful bundles of description and dialogue lying upon the page, but the process itself.  I write not for “Constant Reader” as Stephen King would say, but for me.

To love your writing is to love the parts of yourself that you find most sinister, embarrassing, and beautiful.  To love writing is to love the flaws you would never dare to expose to the world’s condemning eyes otherwise

Ray Brabury’s Zen in the Art of Writing taught me to love writing, and in turn, myself.  For that, no amount of thanks or appreciation could ever express my gratitude.  Many books have entertained me, others have made me think, but this book changed my artistic life.

Jack Campbell, Jr. is a dark fiction writer in Lawrence, KS. His writing has appeared in various venues including Twenty 3 Magazine, Danse Macabre, and Insomnia Press. He writes about reading, writing, and life on his blog at www.jackcampbelljr.com.

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