Wednesday, February 07, 2007


I was planning on coming back in here after my “Acceptance Letter” entry to post something (intended as) humorous, something along the lines of: “What do you mean that acceptance letter was discouraging? Why in the world would I try to discourage thousands of people from flooding IGMS with stories every year?” Etc. etc. Why, indeed.

But as I was re-reading Ray Bradbury’s essay (collected in the book by the same title), “Zen and The Art of Writing,” I was really struck with what Bradbury had to say. I agreed with him so wholeheartedly that I had to post part of it (very slightly trimmed down) here. Ignore my previous weak attempt at humor and heed a master:

“You have been working, haven’t you?

What kind of schedule?

You will have to write and put away or burn a lot of material before you become comfortable in this medium. You might as well start now and get the necessary work done.

For I believe that that eventually quantity will make for quality.

How so?

Michelangelo’s, da Vinci’s, Tintoretto’s billion sketches, the quantitative, prepared them for the qualitative, single sketches further down the line, single portraits of incredible control and beauty.

A great surgeon dissects and re-dissects a thousand, ten-thousand bodies, tissues, organs, preparing thus by quantity for the time when quality will count – with a living creature under his knife.

An athlete may run ten thousand miles in order to prepare for one hundred yards.

Quantity gives experience. From experience alone can quality come.

Is the writer different? I think not.

Nothing fails then. All goes on. Work is done. If good, you learn from it. If bad, you learn even more. Work done and behind you is a lesson to be studied. There is no failure unless one stops.”

Let me repeat that. “There is no failure,” Bradbury says, “unless one stops.”

Truer words were never spoken.


Anonymous said...

I agree with this sentiment. I have gone through model after model of a particular story until finally I get to something I like... but my own feeling is that "if I hadn't put all those words on it, I wouldn't be able to tell which ones were the right ones."

Thanks for the inspiration.

Juliette Wade

Anonymous said...

Heh. Juliette's comment reminds me of something I was asked once when I bemoaned the necessary cutting of an entire 20-page scene: "If it wasn't necessary, why did you write it?"

That was a bit boggling--apart from the scene being funny (but ultimately weightless), it was a pleasure to write--and I think I finally responded with, "I thought it was necessary at the time."

Not for the story, as it turned out, but the writer sure as hell got something out of it.

S. E. Ward

Edmund R. Schubert said...

Excellent story. ;-)