It’s hard to stay erect for two hundred days

I wasn’t going to dance in the Ray Bradbury parade because, to be honest, I’ve read far more of his writing advice than his fiction and there are already loads of way smarter people talking about him, but this interview is too good not to share. God he had a beautiful mind.

“[Writing is] the exquisite joy and madness of my life, and I don’t understand writers who have to work at it. I like to play. I’m interested in having fun with ideas, throwing them up in the air like confetti and then running under them. If I had to work at it I would give it up. I don’t like working.”

Mind you, he’s playing even here. He worked super hard at writing all his life. I guess when you truly love something, it doesn’t really feel like work.

Also, I’ve been thinking about the difference between short stories and novels a lot lately, and of course Bradbury has something brilliant to say about it.

“The problem of the novel is to stay truthful. The short story, if you really are intense and you have an exciting idea, writes itself in a few hours. I try to encourage my student friends and my writer friends to write a short story in one day so it has a skin around it, its own intensity, its own life, its own reason for being. There’s a reason why the idea occurred to you at that hour anyway, so go with that and investigate it, get it down. Two or three thousand words in a few hours is not that hard. Don’t let people interfere with you. Boot ’em out, turn off the phone, hide away, get it done. If you carry a short story over to the next day you may overnight intellectualize something about it and try to make it too fancy, try to please someone.

But a novel has all kinds of pitfalls because it takes longer and you are around people, and if you’re not careful you will talk about it. The novel is also hard to write in terms of keeping your love intense. It’s hard to stay erect for two hundred days. So, get the big truth first. If you get the big truth, the small truths will accumulate around it. Let them be magnetized to it, drawn to it, and then cling to it. to it.”

The complete interview is at the Paris Review. It’s well worth the read.

So long, Mr. Bradbury!

“When he came to me, he touched me on the brow, and on the nose, and on the chin, and he said to me, in a whisper, ‘Live forever.’ And I decided to.”

 

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