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Saturday, February 13, 2010

Writing Companions

Writing Companions
(Inspired by Ray Bradbury)

“If you are writing without zest, without gusto, without love, without fun, you are only half a writer. It means you are so busy keeping one eye on the commercial market, or one ear peeled for the avant-garde coterie, that you are not being yourself.”
-- Ray Bradbury --

This quote by Ray Bradbury has been haunting me since I read the first chapter in his book, Zen in the Art of Writing over a month ago. It was the phrase “you are so busy keeping one eye on the commercial market…” that really got me, I suppose.

I became a commercial market writer because I love to write and I needed to validate that love by creating a way for me to write full time and still be able to pay the bills. Maybe “someday” I’ll be paid for the stuff that bleeds from my soul, but until that ship comes in, I’ve still got to make a living and that is in the commercial market.

Ray Bradbury’s statement haunts me because I’m not really sure I can find the zest and gusto to write much of the stuff that pays the bills. It’s technical, tedious, monotonous, … Ah, but it is never boring. So there’s my first key: because the stuff I write about is, in one way or another, interesting to me, I can maintain a level of energy that allows me to be authentically me.

But it is not that simple. What Bradbury’s statement says to me is a sort of angry reprimand. On the one hand, it is permission to keep “one eye on the commercial market,” on the other, a warning, a command: “don’t you dare put both eyes there!” So I’ve teetered this past month, wondering where that balance is between writing for “them” and writing for me.

I don’t think there is a balance, actually. My commercial market writing is always about “them” and in “them” is me; and the stuff of my souls, well, that’s always about me, a runoff that affects “them.” There is a unifying component here in this place I’ve found, a mental place of buoyancy where I understand myself as a part of a whole. And several things have happened to my writing as I have fiddled around with the ideas that are evolving from Bradbury’s words.

I stopped marking the time of my commercial writing projects to find out how long each assignment takes. Although I do not have the counts of minutes for each job, I am pretty sure that I have picked up speed. At least it seems they are unfolding with more ease anyway without the pressure I was putting on myself by working under a clock.

I have wriggled my way onto a new level of confidence: I know what I’m doing; I know how to do it; and I do it well. My work is worth every penny.

I feel a rhythmic current as I move gracefully between projects. I am not sure why or how, and this one is a bit difficult to articulate, but it seems easier to walk away from something that isn’t working, or that is making me weary, and come back to it later. I move on to something else, then something else, then back. Seeing several different projects in front of me at one time is not overwhelming as it once was. Instead it is more like a spread of options and it doesn’t really matter which one I choose, because they aren’t going anywhere; they are all mine.

In the ebb and flow of moving between assignments, I have discovered spaces for my personal creative projects and chunks of time for soul dancing in my journal. I have returned to my Japanese Bath Tub Stories and am fueled by the cheers of my writing friends who will wait patiently for the arrival of eternity, but really want me to get on with it.

Zest, Gusto, Love, and Fun.
Yes, Mr. Bradbury, these are my writing companions!


  1. Oh, I like this! I like the way you are finding your balance, and I think, your true writing voice. I love the phrase "sould dancing in my journal"!! Love it! Bradbury's book Zen in the Art of Writing has been one of my favorites for a long time. I re-read it when I need that kick to remind me of the zest, gusto, love and fun. I'm glad that you are discovering this book.

  2. Oops--just saw a typo in the comment above--I meant to write "soul dancing." Guess I should proof before hitting post!