Monday, 22 October 2012

Ray Bradbury's Word Association Process

I've been reading Ray Bradbury's 'Zen in the Art of Writing', which is actually a collection of short essays on writing. 

First of all, let me just say how useful a collection of essays is for motivation. I've been keeping it beside my bed and on the mornings when I can't force myself straight up and to my writing chair, I roll over and grab this instead. I can read one complete essay without cutting too much into my writing time, and be inspired. 

Which leads me to my second point: there is so much I want to steal from this book to share with you, so if you end up getting a few posts, please don't blame me. If you read the book you will understand why. 

I think the first thing I should share is to say that Ray Bradbury is what most writers aspire to be (well, other than the fact he's rich and famous) and something I definitely feel I'm not: he's a writing enthusiast. He bursts with writing.  He describes it as an explosion every morning. How awesome would that be? 

The question then rises: if I follow his process, might I have the same experience? 

Well, I will leave that to all of you to test out and get back to us with.

In the essay titled 'Just This Side of Byzantium: Dandelion Wine' he gives an image of how his writing changed, and a description of how that came about. 

Please excuse me for the long quote, but I really don't think I could say it better.

p. 79.

'Dandelion Wine, like most of my books and stories, was a surprise. I began to learn the nature of such surprises, thank God, when I was fairly young as a writer.' [keep in mind he decided to become a writer at age 11, and wrote 1,000 words a day from then on.] 'Before that, like every beginner, I thought you could beat, pummel, and thrash an idea into existence. Under such treatment, of course, any decent idea folds up its paws, turns on its back, fixes its eyes on eternity, and dies.

It was with great relief, then, that in my early twenties I floundered into a word-association process in which I simply got out of bed each morning, walked to my desk, and put down any word or series of words that happened along in my head.
I would then take arms against the word, or for it, and bring on an assortment of characters to weigh the word and show me its meaning in my own life. An hour or two hours later, to my amazement, a new story would be finished and done. The surprise was total and lovely. I soon found that I would have to work this way for the rest of my life.'

He makes it sound so wonderful, so easy. And perhaps it is. 

If anyone wants to test out his word association process, I recommend reading a bit more about it, but please report back on how you find it. 

I am also interested to see how this applies to novels. Bradbury worked largely in short stories. Could the same be used repeatedly, day after day, to drive forward a novel?  Would it become disjointed or leave out the necessary low points where the reader can catch their breath? 

As to my own writing. I have left Wonderland and the realm of children's writing. It had lost its glamour for me. Instead I am working on a supernatural thriller. It would be horror, except I can't write that without frightening myself. Even now I play with images in my mind to see if they are too scary to put down. I am going slowly again, but better slow and steady than nothing at all. I did 3,000 yesterday and 3,500 today.

So let me know if any of you experiment with Word Association.

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