Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Ray Bradbury R.I.P.

Ray Bradbury died Tuesday, June 5, 2012 at the age of 91. Remembered for his science fiction works such as Fahrenheit 451, The Illustrated Man, and The Martian Chronicles, Bradbury was a profilic writer who helped science fiction escape "pulp" status and legitimizing a whole genre.

In 2001, Bradbury offered twelve pieces of advice to aspiring writers. Even though most of your college writing will be essays which many see as not very creative, if you want your Professor to be engaged (and therefore entertained--that's a good thing) in what you're writing take Bradbury's advice from Open Culture:

>>"Don’t start out writing novels. They take too long. Begin your writing life instead by cranking out “a hell of a lot of short stories,” as many as one per week. Take a year to do it; he claims that it simply isn’t possible to write 52 bad short stories in a row. He waited until the age of 30 to write his first novel, Fahrenheit 451. 'Worth waiting for, huh?'"
In other words, get to the point and do it quickly. Also, remember the anecdote - they are a great way to hook your reader.

>>"You may love ‘em, but you can’t be ‘em. Bear that in mind when you inevitably attempt, consciously or unconsciously, to imitate your favorite writers, just as he imitated H.G. Wells, Jules Verne, Arthur Conan Doyle, and L. Frank Baum."
But you can borrow from them -- just don't forget to cite properly.

>>"Examine 'quality' short stories. He suggests Roald Dahl, Guy de Maupassant, and the lesser-known Nigel Kneale and John Collier. Anything in the New Yorker today doesn’t make his cut, since he finds that their stories have 'no metaphor.'"
Remember a metaphor makes an unclear idea clearer, not the other way around. Study metaphors and see what makes them work in the readings you are assigned.

>>"Stuff your head. To accumulate the intellectual building blocks of these metaphors, he suggests a course of bedtime reading: one short story, one poem (but Pope, Shakespeare, and Frost, not modern 'crap'), and one essay. These essays should come from a diversity of fields, including archaeology, zoology, biology, philosophy, politics, and literature. 'At the end of a thousand nights,' so he sums it up, 'Jesus God, you’ll be full of stuff!'”
This is reading from a book with pages, not FaceBook or Twitter. Although full texts from the internet (or your Nook are okay).

>>"Get rid of friends who don’t believe in you. Do they make fun of your writerly ambitions? He suggests calling them up to 'fire them' without delay."
Especially those college friends that would rather party every night instead of studying.

>>"Live in the library. Don’t live in your 'goddamn computers.' He may not have gone to college, but his insatiable reading habits allowed him to 'graduate from the library' at age 28."
We have a good library on campus and it has more than computers and wifi - Check out a book!

>>"Fall in love with movies. Preferably old ones."
Yes, that means those black and white ones. Start with Sunset Boulevard, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Metropolis, and of course, Casablanca.

>>"Write with joy. In his mind, 'writing is not a serious business.' If a story starts to feel like work, scrap it and start one that doesn’t. 'I want you to envy me my joy,' he tells his audience.
This may be hard to achieve with a college essay, but at least give it a try. Pick a subject you are passionate about. Do the brainstorming activities -- they usually take you somewhere.

>>"Don’t plan on making money. He and his wife, who 'took a vow of poverty' to marry him, hit 37 before they could afford a car (and he still never got around to picking up a license)."
What? That's why you are going to college. Well, don't plan on being a millionaire, plan on doing something that makes you happy, something that isn't a chore to study and that you can spend the rest of your life doing.

>>"List ten things you love, and ten things you hate. Then write about the former, and 'kill' the later — also by writing about them. Do the same with your fears."
What do you fear? What would happen if you wrote about them? If you write about them, practice them, you will find they become less and less fearful.

>>"Just type any old thing that comes into your head. He recommends 'word association' to break down any creative blockages, since 'you don’t know what’s in you until you test it.'

What are you supposed to be writing about? Just start typing. What comes into your head. Try it for a page and you'll be surprised about how much you already know--and how much you can use in your essay.

>>Remember, with writing, what you’re looking for is just one person to come up and tell you, 'I love you for what you do.' Or, failing that, you’re looking for someone to come up and tell you, 'You’re not nuts like people say.'
Doesn't an A give you that feeling of love and it's something you can do all on your own.

So treat your essays a little more creatively and you'll find they are a little less onerous.

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