I was looking through my bookshelves for something I may want to reread. I picked up Ray Bradbury’s Zen and the Art of Writing: Release the Creative Genius Within You. It’s a small paperback book. I opened the cover and on page one the autograph of the author and the date May 1996 stared me in the face.
That’s the first time I heard Ray Bradbury speak — and the first time I asked him to sign a book. My daughter was three months old, and my son was three years old. That’s a lot of years to have this book sitting on my bookshelf. It’s time for a reread.
His book of essays reminded me of how inspiring his talks were. I heard him speak at two writers’ conferences and at a small movie theater downtown Palm Springs. The first time I heard him speak, I saw him that same day in May 1996 at Las Casuelas the Original, a small Mexican restaurant. I introduced myself to him, as he ate alone, and said I couldn’t wait to hear his talk. He was happy I stopped by to say hello.
It was one of the first writer’s conferences I had attended, and I was kind of in a fog, having a newborn child and little sleep.
Ray Bradbury was amazing. He reminded me of a young child, finding wonder in the world. He had the ability to stay young at heart and observe the world as though seeing little things for the first time. I loved his story of how he wrote Fahrenheit 451 in the basement of the UCLA library at a rental typewriter paying 10 cents a half hour. He said he was literally a “dime novelist.” It gave me courage and the belief that we can do anything — if you want it badly enough.
“Garbage in, garbage out,” he said. He advised us to turn off the TV. Don’t watch the news. He said they were selling soap and there was little or no good news and it would rot our minds. Instead, “Read the Bible, a poem and an essay every day.”
How I’d wish I’d listened more carefully and followed that advice . How different would my life be today? The good news is, it’s not too late to start.
My all-time favorite Ray Bradbury book is Fahrenheit 451. My son loves this book, too. I took my son to meet Ray Bradbury during another local speaking engagement years later. My son now has a signed copy of Farenheit 451 that he treasures. Ray Bradbury was a very accessible and kind man, willing to share with all of us enjoying his gift and genius — and striving to be 1/100th the writer that he was.
“What do you love most in the world? The big and little things, I mean. A trolley car, a pair of tennis shoes? These, at one time when we were children, were invested with magic for us.” — from Zen and the Art of Writing
Who are your all-time favorite authors? What are your favorite books?