I don’t know how many of you have read Ray Bradbury’s Zen in the Art of Writing but if you haven’t, you absolutely must! It’s my favorite book on writing (I like it even more than I do Stephen King’s – and that’s saying something!) and I think, in rereading it lately, that I have finally discovered why: I love this book because it is not a book “on writing” so much as it is a love letter to writing, it is a romance between one man and his craft which he has elected to share in the most celebratory and intimate way possible.
However, what I’d like to focus on right now is not the wild romance or the zest and gusto with which he writes, but on the section that discusses his method.
In Zen, Bradbury explains that, in his heyday when he was writing in order to keep his family afloat, he wrote and submitted at least one story every week.
“On Monday morning I wrote the first draft of a new story. On Tuesday I did a second draft. On Wednesday a third. On Thursday a fourth. On Friday a fifth. And on Saturday at noon I mailed out the sixth and final draft to New York” (Bradbury 68).
This method not only terrifies me — to be able to just sit and pound everything out in a single sitting and have them ready-to-go before the week is up is astonishing! I’m generally proud of my ability to swallow my pride about a story after three to five edits and send it out to literary magazines knowing it will never be the masterpiece I dreamed of, but the first draft alone usually takes me three to five days to write. This got me thinking about the differences between a writer who wants to be able to work full-time (we’re all full-time at heart, no?) and a writer who has always worked full-time.
Is writing your full-time or your part-time “work”? Do you want writing to be your full-time or, if we’re honest, would that make it too much like work for you? What is your current method/writing schedule — when do you turn a draft over to the hands of a lit mag?
Of course, this also had me thinking more critically about the recent trend to self-publish online (especially via Amazon) and whether or not this might be impacting the future of writers who start out like Stephen King and Ray Bradbury — authors who need to publish in order to feed their families or pay for their rent. Has this type of author disappeared? Is it our own doing or is it due to the whims of the publishing industry? And, more importantly, I wonder, does this mean that we are witnessing a shift in how we as authors, readers, and publishers, regard the craft of writing itself — is it with zest, gusto, and an editorial eye or are we simply attempting to churn out as many words as possible for an invisible, identity-less eye?
Bradbury, Ray. Zen in the Art of Writing. Santa Barbara: Capra Press, 1990.