In 1994, Ray Bradbury wrote Zen in the Art of Writing, an autobiographical book about his life of writing. The book is phenomenal, and the stories about his growing up are entertaining and memorable. He was a fascinating writer with an unbelievable passion for telling stories. Here’s one quote from the book that gives you an idea of his dedication to writing:
“But how did I begin? Starting in Mr. Electrico’s [a circus character that visited his town in 1932] year, I wrote a thousand words a day. For ten years I wrote at least one short story a week, somehow guessing that a day would finally come when I truly got out of the way and let it happen. [that’s more than five hundred stories!]
The day came in 1942 when I wrote “The Lake.” Ten years of doing something wrong suddenly became the right idea, the right scene, the right characters, the right day, the right creative time. I wrote the story sitting outside, with my typewriter, on the lawn. At the end of an hour the story was finished, the hair on the back of my neck was standing up, and I was in tears. I knew I had written the first really good story of my life.
All during my early twenties I had the following schedule. On Monday morning I wrote the first draft of a new story. On Tuesday I did a second draft. On Wednesday a third. On Thursday a fourth. On Friday a fifth. And on Saturday at noon I mailed out the sixth and final draft to New York. Sunday? I thought about all the wild ideas scrambling for my attention, waiting under the attic lid, confident at last that, because of “The Lake,” I would soon let them out.
There was another reason to write so much: I was being paid twenty to forty dollars a story, by the pulp magazines. High on the hog was hardly my way of life. I had to sell at least one story, or better two, each month in order to survive my hot-dog, hamburger, trolley-car-fare life.
In 1944 I sold some forty stories, but my total income for the year was only $800.”
I can only gasp at that level of creativity. Louis L’Amour, the famous western writer, set a goal of not only writing one short story a week but selling the story to a magazine to be able to support his family.
I’m way down the scale on such ambition. I met my goal for the winter of writing another Mogi Franklin mystery, plus a short adult fiction story. They are both finished and lying idle while I get some distance between them and the final edit. Whether they get published or not waits to be seen.
Now I’m on break from writing. It’s Spring coming into Summer and I’ve got other things on my mind – building, rafting, backpacking and such. I’m taking a trip to Alaska in June and will be on the lookout for a new story. I grew up on The Call of the Wild and I would love to find the inspiration to produce my own version of a young person’s tale of adventure.
I can’t produce at the level of Ray Bradbury, but I will do what I can.
Don Willerton has been a reader all his life and yearns to write words like the authors he has read. He's working hard at it and invites others to share their experiences.