Ray Bradbury (1920–2012) is one of our most famous storytellers, and it’s easy to see why. His writing soars with great characters, fantastical premises, and extraordinary imagination. His Fahrenheit 451 is still one of my top ten favorite novels of all time, and to this day I’m still flabbergasted by the prolific nature to the guy’s writing, often coming up with a new short story every single week. The guy loved to write, and it showed in all the work that he did.
Today I’d like to share with you six quotes from Ray Bradbury that I try to think about when I’m writing my fiction. If you’re ever in need of some quick inspiration, always turn to a great Bradbury quote like any one of these…
1. “I know you’ve heard it a thousand times before, but it’s true — hard work pays off. If you want to be good, you have to practice, practice, practice. If you don’t love something, then don’t do it.”
As I said, Bradbury often wrote a new short story every single week. And the more months and years that passed, the better and better he became, and the more and more stories he started to sell!
When it comes to writing, hard work is everything. Practicing is essential. You can’t sit down at you computer once a week and be brilliant. You have to love writing, be passionate about writing, and be willing to do it every single day.
2. “You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.”
I made a key decision a few years back, and I still think about that decision, especially when I’m feeling down and having a not-so-great day. I made the decision to, whenever possible, to just get totally drunk on storytelling. Reading books. Watching films. Writing stories. It’s my motto, and my new publication here on Medium: Read. Watch. Write. Repeat.
When I spend most of my day reading great books and watching great films and writing, writing, writing, I’m happier. Sure, I need to also leave the house occasionally and maybe have coffee with a friend. But for the most part, reality cannot destroy you if you spend much of your day in other worlds, in other stories. Whether you’re reading them or watching them or writing them.
3. “Don’t think. Thinking is the enemy of creativity. It’s self-conscious, and anything self-conscious is lousy. You can’t try to do things. You must simply do things.”
This quote is so true. You can sit around for days and weeks thinking about your story. Thinking about your characters. Thinking about what you want to do. But at the end of the day, that’s a small part of the puzzle. And eventually, yes, you need to write.
Have you been thinking about writing your first novel? Is there a story idea you’ve been mulling over for a long time but haven’t put a word down?
Just do it. Get started. Write 500 words. Write a first chapter. See what happens. You can always cut it later. Don’t think too much. Thinking is important at the beginning, but after awhile, you simply must write.
4. “Ideas excite me, and as soon as I get excited, the adrenaline gets going and and the next thing I know I’m borrowing energy from the ideas themselves.”
There’s nothing like getting a great idea for a story. When something hits you, often from out of nowhere, and then doesn’t leave your subconscious until you simply have to put it down on paper. This happens to me with novel ideas mostly. Most of my ideas are big, and not appropriate for a short story. But occasionally tiny ideas for a story hit me too, like it did last week in Portland.
You can work on something over and over to death, revising for all eternity, but for me the true excitement in writing comes from getting that original idea and then getting started, doing exactly what Bradbury says — borrowing energy from the idea. When you discover a great idea, don’t let go of it. And the excitement of it stay with you for as long as possible.
5. “There’s no one way to be creative. Any old way will work.”
One thing you have to remember when it comes to writing is that there is no one way to write. To finish your novel. To be creative. Sure, there are some rules you should try to follow. Like, try to write a little bit every day.
But Bradbury is right in that there isn’t a single perfect way to be creative. In the end, you do you. Do what feels right. Don’t try to replicate what other people do, and don’t try to be something you’re not. Do what makes the ideas flourish and makes your creativity soar. Whatever that is, hang onto it for as long as you can.
6. “The answer to all writing, to any career for that matter, is love.”
If you want to be a writer, you have to love it. As I’ve said on here many times before, I’ve been at this game a long, long time. I’ve written nineteen novels. I’ve received two Masters degrees in English. I have been writing non-stop since childhood and I don’t intend to slow down anytime soon. You’re going to be rejected, a lot. You might have years and years of constant failure.
Don’t let negativity stop you. Whether it’s from people in your life telling you to get your act together, or whether it’s from constant rejection and failure. If you love to write, keep writing. Don’t stop. Keep at it, year and year, and amazing things can happen.
They did for Ray Bradbury. And they can for you, too.