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Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury (BOOK REVIEW) 4/5

Mr. Bradbury is a master of the writing craft for one reason above all others: He understands what it means to be born to be a writer. Anyone can write- but only a select few feel that without writing, they would not be living. I share Mr. Bradbury’s sentiment in this. Much of this novel of collected essays speaks to that truth, that calling, that hunger. To be a good writer, you have to have a passion for writing- you have to be excited, Mr. Bradbury says, and I cannot emphasize enough how true that is. In this novel, he touches on what makes writing worthwhile. He describes the poison of life, with writing- or any art, truly, for any real artist- as its cure. I have written every day of my life since I was ten years old, and I can only say that what he says rings true: one day without writing is uncomfortable enough, but a week? A month? A year? It’s torturous, truly. My mind fills with dark clouds, my body feels sluggish and ill, and I know that Ray Bradbury’s description of this phenomenon- this edge of anxiety clawing at my heart and entangling my mind- is entirely accurate. He could not live without writing, and neither can I, and neither should anyone who claims to be a writer.

One thing Mr. Bradbury touches on which I love is that you absolutely should not- can not- consider writing for money when you write. In these modern days, you see it so often. People who churn out several books a year, following a tried and true formula, writing in a specific genre and writing to market. They study the trends, they learn how to play the game, and good on them! Some make plenty of money to live off. But they often are not writers of passion- writers cut from Ray Bradbury’s cloth. I don’t think writing to market is wrong, but it is a very different way to face the world of writers. There are writers whose characters are very real to them, who speak to them and demand their story be told- and then there are writers who take the structure of a story and build characters for it that fit the mold.

I have to say I agree with Mr. Bradbury’s quote, “If you are writing without zest, without gusto, without love, without fun, you are only half a writer.” This book reminds people what it means to be in love with your craft. As a writer myself, I consider this book to have been inspirational and filled with encouragement to keep going with what I love more than anything in the world.

However, I did give it a 4 out of 5. The latter half of the book spoke much more about Mr. Bradbury’s other works, his screenwriting especially. While all writing craft books feature bits of the author, I haven’t- as of yet- read any of Mr. Bradbury’s other works. As a result, these sections dragged on to me because I didn’t know the material the essays were on. For those who are longtime fans of Ray Bradbury, this book will be an easy 5/5 filled with charm. For me, I read much of the advice in the beginning and fell in love- and then dragged my feet through the rest. And so, my personal reading experience was a bit lower.

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