I wonder if the 8-year-old girl, who was sketching at the Frida Kahlo exhibit a few weeks ago, will someday look back with wonder like Ray Bradbury. It could happen.
Sometimes I am stunned at my capacity as a nine-year-old, to understand my entrapment and escape it.
How is it that the boy I was in October, 1929, could, because of the criticism of his fourth grade schoolmates, tear up his Buck Rogers comic strips and a month later judge all of his friends idiots and rush back to collecting?
Where did that judgment and strength come from? What sort of process did I experience to enable me to say: I am as good as dead. Who is killing me? What do I suffer from? What’s the cure?
I was able, obviously, to answer all of the above. I named the sickness: my tearing up the strips. I found the cure: go back to collecting, no matter what.
I did. And was made well.
But still. At that age? When we are accustomed to responding to peer pressure?
Where did I find the courage to rebel, change my life, live alone?
I don’t want to over-estimate all this, but damn it, I love that nine-year-old, whoever in hell he was. Without him, I could not have survived to introduce these essays.
Part of the answer, of course, is in the fact that I was so madly in love with Buck Rogers, I could not see my love, my hero, my life, destroyed. It is almost that simple. It was like having your best all-around greatest-loving-buddy, pal, center-of-life drown or get shot-gun killed. Friends, so killed, cannot be saved from funerals. Buck Rogers, I realized, might know a second life, if I gave it to him. So I breathed in his mouth and, lo!, he sat up and talked and said, what?
Yell. Jump. Play. Out-run those sons-of-bitches. They’ll never live the way you live. Go do it.
Except I never used the S.O.B words. They were not allowed. Heck! was about the size and strength of my outcry. Stay alive!
So I collected comics, fell in love with carnivals and World’s Fairs and began to write. And what, you ask, does writing teach us?
First and foremost, it reminds us that we are alive and that it is a gift and a privilege, not a right. We must earn life once it has been awarded us. Life asks for rewards back because it has favored us with animation.
So while our art cannot, as we wish it could, save us from wars, privation, envy, greed, old age, or death, it can revitalize us amidst it all.
Secondly, writing is survival. Any art, any good work, of course, is that.
Not to write, for many of us, is to die.
We must take arms each and every day, perhaps knowing that the battle cannot be entirely won, but fight we must, if only a gentle bout. The smallest effort to win means, at the end of each day, a sort of victory. Remember that pianist who said that if he did not practice every day he would know, if he did not practice for two days, the critics would know, after three days, his audiences would know.
A variation of this is true for writers. Not that your style, whatever that is, would melt out of shape in those few days.
But what would happen is that the world would catch up with and try to sicken you. If you did not write every day, the poisons would accumulate and you would begin to die, or act crazy, or both.
You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you. For writing allows just the proper recipes of truth, life, reality as you are able to eat, drink, and digest without hyperventilating and flopping like a dead fish in your bed.
I have learned, on my journeys, that if I let a day go by without writing, I grow uneasy. Two days I am in tremor. Three and I suspect lunacy. Four and I might as well be a hog, suffering the flux in a wallow. An hour’s writing is tonic. I’m on my feet, running in circles, and yelling for a clean pair of spats.
So that, in one way or another, is what this book is all about.
-excerpt from the Preface of Zen In the Art of Writing, Essays on Creativity by Ray Bradbury, How To Climb the Tree of Life, Throw Rocks at Yourself, and Get Down Again Without Breaking Your Bones or Your Spirit, A Preface With a Title Not Much Longer Than the Book, Capra Press, 1990
Makes you want to read the book doesn’t it? Just think, this is only part of the first few pages. I was reminded by The Other Ivy’s post to check my shelves.
There is was, Zen In the Art of Writing. I picked up the book and started reading it again.
-posted on red Ravine, Sunday, January 13th, 2008
-related to post, White Elephants On Art