Wednesday, September 1 2021

Quote of the Day

“All I want to do is live up to her example,” I say out loud.

Othaar shakes his head. “There’s no way.”

Those three syllables push all the air out of me and leave me utterly deflated. Like I just suffered a tiny hull breach.

Charlie Jane Anders, Victories Greater Than Death

Ray Bradbury and writing exuberantly

Ugh.

This morning I watched Kate Cavanaugh’s I TRIED WRITING LIKE…RAY BRADBURY (and you should join me)! video blog. She’s trying Ray Bradbury’s advice from his book on writing, Zen and The Art of Writing. It goes something like, read a poem, short story, and essay a day. Write 1000 words a day and produce a short story a week for a year.

The best hygiene for beginning writers or intermediate writers is to write a hell of a lot of short stories. If you can write one short story a week—it doesn’t matter what the quality is to start, but at least you’re practicing, and at the end of the year you have 52 short stories, and I defy you to write 52 bad ones. Can’t be done. At the end of 30 weeks or 40 weeks or at the end of the year, all of a sudden a story will come that’s just wonderful.

Ray Bradbury

I’ve read this book, years ago, and of course I thought it was great advice and of course I tried it. Did I end up with 52 stories, and was one of them wonderful?

No.

But hearing someone try it again, I was lured again. Maybe I should try it again. Bradbury didn’t believe in new writers writing novels. He didn’t believe in writing being hard. He didn’t believe in thinking too hard, or cautionary tales, or doing anything, including writing, that wasn’t absolute pleasure. He believed in moving too fast for the intellect to catch up:

In quickness is truth. The faster you blurt, the more swiftly you write, the more honest you are. In hesitation is thought. In delay comes the effort for a style, instead of leaping upon truth which is the only style worth deadfalling or tiger-trapping.

Ray Bradbury

And it all just sounds so…..easy. Seductive. If I just am super excited and enthusiastic and hit the ground running every day and sling word after word on the page, I’ll inevitably be great.

For five seconds I was seduced. But then the video came to an end and I woke up and remembered this new process I’ve created for myself–the one where I understand what I’m doing and get to the end of story instead of getting lost in the middle–can’t possibly happen in a week. Maybe when I am more familiar with it and I can fine tune it and cut out the extraneous parts and do more than one step on the fly….well, maybe. But for now, no. Working through the theme, thinking about structure, working out character drives and motivations and dynamics, crafting a plot that meets the genre requirements, building scenes with tension–that doesn’t all just happen for me, not in a million trillion drafts, not without thinking it through first.

My process is completely antithetical to Bradbury’s process. And that doesn’t feel nice. I love Bradbury’s work, and I especially love the style of his later works–there are passages in Death Is A Lonely Business that thrill me:

Melt all the guns, I thought, break the knives, burn the guillotines-and the malicious will still write letters that kill.

Ray Bradbury, Death Is A Lonely Business

I didn’t even know it was a thing that I was holding on to, wanting to write like Bradbury, and I only realized it now because I have to let it go.

Matthew Salesses helps; I’m pretty sure this innate understanding of story that is based in the specifically unspoken cultural expectation of a white male audience is what leads someone like Bradbury to assume that everyone can just “get” writing instinctually, and contrastingly why I never did. That feels better than “I’m just too stupid to ever get it.” A narrative which my brain will entertain way too easily. Which maybe is true! I guess we’ll see.


Speaking of

The Story Of J.P. Morgan’s ‘Personal Librarian’ — And Why She Chose To Pass As White

And Belle had to sacrifice all of that to pass as white. She couldn’t embrace her father’s teachings. She couldn’t see her mother’s family. There were so many sacrifices that went along with passing that we felt really needed to be explored.

If you’ve ever wondered why I insist on identifying as mixed race, it’s because I don’t want to live like this. Of course, opportunities are…mildly less problematic now, and my light skin and pedigree shield me from a lot of assumptions (in my adult life, anyway). But I come from two wonderful people, and I’m not going to pretend that either one of them didn’t exist in the making of me.