Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury

I have decided to elevate Ray Bradbury as the grandfather of my literary aesthetic: cinematic absurdist.

I found an essay (an interview, really) in this book where he states

all my stories are cinematic. … I may be the most cinematic novelist in the country today. All of my short stories can be shot right off the page. Each paragraph is a shot.

I knew there was a reason why I enjoyed his work so much!

That is how I approach my writing: every dialogue break, every inch of white space, is simply a subtle stage direction for the reader to move the camera in their mind’s eye. It sent shivers down my spine when it all came together in my head.

Like me, he never rejected film and movies as a source of inspiration. To me, the physical product of film is cyclical. You can’t watch a great movie without a story, and SOMEONE has to write that story first.

Buy this book on Bookshop & support indie bookstores!

Why me? Why NOT me?

Movies condense universal truths in a teeny tiny amount of artistic space. Short story writers do that too.

I almost wish I had read this book sooner because I think the introduction to my thesis could have used this explanation to flesh out what I was trying to say.

I think he’s one of the few literary novelists who had minor success in Hollywood. I know many other authors who had a helluva time in the industry and hated the experience very much.

Or used it to inform their work (looking at you, Bukowski). To me, Bradbury frolicked in the cinematic environment in many ways. For example, he wrote the bloody screenplay for Moby Dick with John Huston. Come on.

To be a writer is to be a control freak. We don’t and can’t relinquish that aspect of our art freely. But the thing about making a movie is that you can’t artistically control a film financially or literally once you’ve started down that path. It belongs to the cooks in the kitchen.

And there’s a LOT. So you have a lot of people to answer to and for.

I learned this quickly and stopped pursuing my interest in making films when I realized that. Of course, my passion for filmmaking will always be a part of me, but it has tamped down into a format that informs the writing voice I’m trying to make for myself.

That works much better for me. I’m OK with writing for the screen when it’s ink on a page and the stage is in the reader’s mind.

This is also what I believe Bradbury was trying to say throughout the collection. His advice made me giggle because I tried to incorporate it into my work before I knew he had said it.

Again, with the universal truths. When you read books about how to do this thing called writing, they tend to say the same thing. It’s not new.

And write some more.
Groan madly.
Throw it out.
Something new.

See? Cyclical.


Guilliean Pacheco (she/her) is a writer and editor of Filipino heritage and the host of the City of Writers podcast. Her work has appeared in TechTarget, Nevada Humanities, and Helen: A Literary Magazine. She has an M.F.A. in Writing from the University of San Francisco and is an Anaphora Arts poetry fellow. She’s a misplaced California girl who lives in Las Vegas normally, if one could call living there normal, on Southern Paiute land. Follow her on Twitter.

Use Your Words