Ray Bradbury and His Method of Education for Budding Writers

I’ve been testing the “Bradbury” method of reading one essay, one poem, and one story each night for the last two months.  Bradbury recommended that you do this for 1000 nights and then you’d be pretty well set to be a writer. I do my daily ten pages in whatever book I’m focused on first, then I do these three things if I have the time.  What I like about it is the variety.  The essays and short stories definitely give me more input and more ideas.  Along the lines of feeding the idea beast, this works well.  I’ve been grabbing cheap collection of essays at Half Price Books and I think I have enough now to last me a while.  I picked up a copy of Montaigne’s essays for $5. I’m burning through Updike essays, and it’s rekindled my love for Updike.  I even grabbed two collections of Gore Vidal’s work, and his writings have probably had the biggest effect on me so far. 

I found myself drifting to his idea that satire is dead yesterday while cleaning the litter boxes.  This method of reading has definitely helped me in the idea department.  Especially, if you are like me, and haven’t always been a reader. I spent the first 20 years of my life not reading much at all, and due to that, I feel like I’m 20 years behind everyone else.  Plus, my wife is a voracious reader and always has been. She’s read everything I want to read and more.  If I didn’t already have an inferiority complex due to trying to write, she comes along and definitely doesn’t help.  I tell her so.  My spouse is supposed to help me attain my goals, right?  She not supposed to make me feel inferior just by her presence.  She just giggles and walks away from me.  I told her I’m killing her off in one of my stories.  Still no results. 

Becoming a writer means becoming a reader, too

I realized when I committed myself to writing that it wasn’t only a commitment to writing. It was also a commitment to read much more than I had been doing.  Just like writing, it has to be every single day, just to keep feeding the beast.  The Bradbury method seems to feed my intellect better than reading one book at a time, plus, I can bounce between three different authors.  My lovely wife tells me that this suits my personality better – “you get bored easy,” she tells me.  Duh.  So killing her off in a story. Soon.  If nothing else, the Bradbury method has made my brain a lot more active at night.  That can’t be a bad thing, right? It keeps the boredom at bay, too, which I can easily be sucked into by a story I don’t connect with.

My initial love of reading and writing was the short story.  There’s something about the constraint of a short story that distills the ideas down to be much more impactful.  So getting back to reading stories has been a lot of fun.  When I first started this way of reading, I’d do my poetry, essay and short story first, then move on to my daily reading.  I had to change that, though because I wasn’t getting my main reading done.  I still want to read at least 10 pages in my current book every day.  I was getting tired and not doing my daily reading, which is bad – again, I have a lot of time to make up for.  I’ve had to do a lot more business reading lately, so that has definitely thrown off my normal reading time.  But reading is the key to keeping the ideas flowing.  So recently, I re-adjusted this method to read my main focus book (Currently Catch-22) and then move on to the Bradbury method.  This way, I always get my main reading done.

This is how I get new experiences

I won’t be going out and getting experiences at my age, I’ll be getting experiences through the reading of other’s work.  I have lists upon lists of great books to get through, and I focus on authors I haven’t read first.  I fight my tendency to go read everything by one author I love in exchange for reading a new author.   

That’s worked well, though.  I got introduced to a lot of writers last year that I hadn’t read yet, some old some new, and each new author makes me feel a little less inferior.  I think my biggest reluctance to meeting other writers is that I fear I’m not as well read as the average author.  That’s OK.  I’m working on it, and I’m working on it every single day.  Very few people focus on one thing every day.  I’m a big fan of the power of time.  I have proof of its effectiveness. In 2018 I wrote every single day and finished the year just under 365000 words.

I wonder what other writers do around reading.  Do you read in your chosen genre?  I really don’t.  But then again, I have in the past. I read every dystopian novel I could find a few years ago, which led me to my current set of stories.  I have three right now that are slightly different versions of each other.  They want to tell you what they’re about, but I won’t let them.  I know that once my subconscious finds out I let the cat out of the bag, it will go find something else and lose interest in these three.  So mum’s the word on those.  They are all a long way away from being finished, though.  I’m trying to focus on structure right now, and I have a lot of writing research to do as to how to prepare to write a book.  I know the basic story, but I need to flesh it out more, and I have to figure out how to do that. 

Variety is some sort of spice

I’ve also been reading a bit of speculative fiction from C.S. Boyack, and I really enjoy the freedom of that genre.  I’ve written a few stories that would fall into that category, I think.  But speculative fiction seems to stretch the imagination a bit more than my normal rants.  I like that.  I love pointing out what I see around me in society, etc., but the goal is to entertain at some point, so I better get to it.  The various reading at night is helping with that.  I can only imagine 1000 nights of this (Bradbury’s original comment) will give me plenty of fodder to pull from.  All this is about getting ideas from wherever they come from.  And to do that, I think you need a lot of variety in your input, and you need to have a good process to sit and think, or rather sit and not think, so your unconscious mind can play a little.  At least that’s how it works for me.  The litter box is my current key to ideas, and I’ve finally found something that works on the road.  No, I don’t carry a litter box with me – just too damn heavy to travel with.  But I did find that if I sit and think for 15 minutes, I can get the same or better output. As always, the key is leaving myself enough time to sit and think before the day gets started.  

Once more into the breach, my friends.  Every day I remember that any success I’ve had in any part of my life has been because of effort and focus.  After only a year of the same with my writing, I know I can get anywhere I want to with it if I just focus and give it enough time.  And you can, too.  It just takes the dedication to get started and stick with it, and the understanding upfront that it will take time and effort. 

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Photo by Alfons Morales on Unsplash

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