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Ray Bradbury’s Advice to Writers

1) Read the authors who write the way you hope to write, those who think the way you would like to think.  But also read those who do not think as you think or write as you want to write, and so be stimulated in directions you might not take for many years.
2) Read poetry every day of your life.  Poetry is good because it flexes muscles you don’t use often enough.  Poetry expands the senses and keeps them in prime condition.  It keeps you aware of your nose, your eye, your ear, your tongue, your hand.  And, above all, poetry is compacted metaphor or simile.  Such metaphors, like Japanese paper flowers, may expand outward into gigantic shapes.  Ideas lie everywhere through the poetry books, yet how rarely have I heard short story teachers recommending them for browsing.
Why all this insistence on the senses?  Because in order to convince your reader that he is there, you must assault each of his senses, in turn, with color, sound, taste, and texture.  If your reader feels the sun on his flesh, the wind fluttering his shirt sleeves, half your fight is won.  The most improbable tales can be made believable, if your reader, through his senses, feels certain that he stands in the middle of events.  He cannot refuse, then, to participate.
3) You must take long walks at night around your city or town, or walks in the country by day.  And long walks, at any time, through bookstores and libraries.  (Bradbury’s mentor Dorothea Brande elaborates: “It will be worth your while to walk on strange streets, to visit exhibitions, to hunt up a movie in a strange part of town in order to give yoruself the experience of fresh seeing once or twice a week.  But any moment of your life can be used, and hte room that you spend most of your waking hours in is as good, or better, to practice responsiveness on as a new street.  Try to see your home, your family, your friends, your school or office, with the same eyes that you use away from your own daily route.”)
4) I grew up reading and loving the traditional ghost stories of Dickens, Lovecraft, Poe, and later, Kuttner, Bloch, and Clark Ashton Smith.  I tried to write stories heavily influenced by various of these writers, and succeeded in making quadruple-layered mudpies, all language and style, that would not float, and sank without a trace.  I was too young to identify my problem, I was so busy imitating… It was only when I began to discover the treats and tricks that came with word association that I began to find some true way through the minefields of imitation.  I finally figured out that if you are going to step on a live mine, make it your own.  Be blown up, as it were, by your own delights and despairs.
5) Find a character, like yourself, who will want something or not want something, with all his heart.  Give him running orders.  Shoot him off.  Then follow as fast as you can go.  The character, in his great love, or hate, will rush you through to the end of the story.
6) Self-consciousness is the enemy of all art, be it acting, writing, painting, or living itself, which is the greatest art of all.  (Dorothea Brande elaborates: “The unconscious is shy, elusive and unwieldy, but it is possible to learn to tap it at will, and even to direct it.  The conscious mind is meddlesome, opinionated and arrogant, but it can be made subservient to the inborn talent through training.  By isolating as far as possible the funcitons of these two sides of the mind, even by considering them not merely as aspects of the same mind but as separate personalities, we can arrive at a kind of working metaphor, impossible to confuse with reality, but infinitely helpful in self-education.”)
7) Make sure that if anyone gives you money [for work], they have the same ideas you have. If you love what you do and do what you love, it’s okay… but never work just for money.  
8) Love is the answer to everything. All of my books are things that I love. All my stories come out of my love… They don’t come from here [the head], they come from here [the heart].
9) You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.
10) Don’t talk about it.  Write!

“Stuff your eyes with wonder. Live as though you’d drop dead in ten seconds. See the world. It’s more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories. Ask no guarantees, ask for no security, there never was such an animal. And if there were, it would be related to the great sloth which hangs upside down in a tree all day every day, sleeping its life away. To hell with that…shake the tree and knock the great sloth down on his ass.” — Fahrenheit 451

Ray Bradbury, 1920-2012

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