Ray Bradbury’s Writing Tips

“I came on the old and best ways of writing
through ignorance and experiment and was startled when truths
leaped out of brushes like quail before gunshot.”
—Ray Bradbury, Zen in the Art of Writing

After Ray Bradbury passed away in June 2012, I collected some of his best writing advice, condensed it, and tweeted it on Twitter. Those “writing tips” became quite popular and were widely retweeted, so I’ve collected and categorized them here for your easy reference. (You’ll notice that several of these tweets are anecdotes rather than writing tips or quotes, but I’ve included them because they are instructive and motivational.) Enjoy—and be inspired!

Feed Your Muse

Ray Bradbury’s #WritingTips: “Read intensely. Write every day. Then see what happens. Most writers who do that have very pleasant careers.”

Ray Bradbury’s #WritingTips: Stuff your head with stories, metaphors, poetry, Shakespeare, science, psychology, philosophy.

Ray Bradbury’s #WritingTips: “Stuff your eyes with wonder, live as if you’d drop dead in ten seconds. See the world.” #FeedYourMuse

Ray Bradbury’s #WritingTips: Fall in love with movies, especially old movies. #FeedYourMuse

Ray Bradbury’s #WritingTips: “I love all of the arts. I love motion pictures. I love stage. I love theater.” #FeedYourMuse

Ray Bradbury’s #WritingTips: Live in the library, not your computer. Ray didn’t go to college, but spent 3 days/wk at the library to age 28.

Ray Bradbury’s #WritingTips: “Read dreadful dumb books & glorious brilliant books, & let them wrestle in beautiful fights inside your head.”

Trust Your Muse (Feel, Intuit, Imagine—Don’t Think!)

Author Ray Bradbury failed 11th grade language proficiency test, had to take remedial grammar his senior year. Never give up on your dreams.

Ray Bradbury’s #WritingTips: “I wish craziness & foolishness & madness upon you. May you live with hysteria & out of it make fine stories.”

Ray Bradbury’s #WritingTips: “The only good writing is intuitive writing. I have a sign by my typewriter that reads, DON’T THINK!”

Ray Bradbury’s #WritingTips: “All of the good, weird stories I’ve written were dredged out of my subconscious.”

Ray Bradbury’s #WritingTips: Use word association to ignite creativity. “You don’t know what’s in you until you test it.” #TrustYourMuse

Ray Bradbury’s #WritingTips: “Don’t worry, don’t push. Just do your work, be joyful, be loving, be explosive. Out of that comes everything.”

Ray Bradbury’s #WritingTips: “If you want to create, you must be the most sublime fool that God ever turned out and sent rambling.”

Ray Bradbury’s #WritingTips: “I wish you a wrestling match with your creative Muse that will last a lifetime.” #TrustYourMuse

Ray Bradbury’s #WritingTips: “Take risks! You’ve got to jump off cliffs and build your wings on the way down.”

Collect Metaphors

Ray Bradbury’s #WritingTips: “I am a metaphor machine.” Collect metaphors! This is the key to the emotional appeal of Bradbury’s writing.

Ray Bradbury’s #WritingTips: “I think the reason my stories have been so successful is that I have a strong sense of metaphor.”

Ray Bradbury’s #WritingTips: “I speak in tongues. I write metaphors. Every one of my stories is a metaphor you can remember.”

Write Daily, Be Disciplined, Pay Your Dues, Learn Your Craft

Ray Bradbury: “Mon. a.m., I wrote a 1st draft story. Tues, 2nd draft. Wed, 3rd. Thurs, 4th. Fri, 5th. Sat. noon, I mailed 6th draft to NYC.”

In high school, Ray Bradbury owned no typewriter yet wrote daily, typing in classrm during lunch hour, then ran to cafeteria before closing.

Ray Bradbury’s #WritingTips: Don’t start out writing novels. They take too long. Instead, “crank out a lot of short stories.”

Ray Bradbury’s #WritingTips: “Write a short story every week. It’s not possible to write 52 bad short stories in a row.” #WriteEveryDay

Ray Bradbury’s #WritingTips: “You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.” #WriteEveryDay

Ray Bradbury’s #WritingTips: “Don’t talk about writing. WRITE!”

Ray Bradbury’s #WritingTips: “You must write every single day of your life.”

Ray Bradbury’s #WritingTips: “Four pages a day is 300,000 or 400,000 words a year. Most will be bilge, but the rest will save your life.”

Ray Bradbury’s #WritingTips: You can’t be your favorite writer. You’ll imitate in the beginning, but ultimately you must become yourself.

Ray Bradbury’s #WritingTips: “You fail only if you stop writing.” #WriteEveryDay

Choose Your Friends and Mentors Wisely

Ray Bradbury’s #WritingTips: Find a mentor. “Leigh Brackett taught me pure story writing, how to pare my stories down, and how to plot.”

Ray Bradbury’s #WritingTips: Ray Bradbury credited his mentors (Heinlein, Kuttner, Jack Williamson) for much of his success and growth as a writer.

Ray Bradbury’s #WritingTips: Young Ray Bradbury was mentored by such experienced writers as Jack Williamson, Robert Heinlein, Henry Kuttner, and Leigh Brackett.

Ray Bradbury’s #WritingTips: A young, unpublished Ray Bradbury used to stand behind Robert Heinlein and watch him type.

Ray Bradbury’s #WritingTips: “Young writers should go out and seek other writers in a similar situation—find an ad hoc church, you might say.”

During Ray Bradbury’s 1940s rise to fame, a jealous “friend” sabotaged him, stole his mail, threw typewriter in river. #ChooseFriendsWisely

Ray Bradbury’s #WritingTips: If your friends don’t believe in you, if they ridicule your writing ambitions, fire them and get new friends.

Do What You Love (Don’t Worry About the Money)

Ray Bradbury’s #WritingTips: Don’t plan on making $$. He was 37 before he could afford a car. His wife “took a vow of poverty” to marry him.

Ray Bradbury’s #WritingTips: “Do what you love and love what you do. If you don’t love something, then don’t do it.”

Ray Bradbury’s #WritingTips: “Write for yourself. Don’t do it for money. Don’t let anyone pay you unless they believe in what you do.”

Ray Bradbury’s #WritingTips: Write with joy. If a story feels like work, scrap it. Start a new one. “Writing is not a serious business.”

In 1944 #RayBradbury made his first $1000 sale. For days, he carried it around in $100 bills to show to his friends.

Ray Bradbury’s #WritingTips: “The answer to all writing, to any career for that matter, is love.”

Ray Bradbury’s #WritingTips: “If you don’t like what you’re doing, then don’t do it.”

Write About Your Loves, Hates, and Fears

Ray Bradbury’s #WritingTips: List 10 things you love, 10 you hate, 10 you fear. Then write to celebrate loves and to destroy hates & fears.

Ray Bradbury’s #WritingTips: “May you be in love every day for the next 20,000 days. And out of that love, remake a world.”

Ray Bradbury’s #WritingTips: Write for that one reader who will come up to you and say, “I love you for what you do.”

Ray Bradbury’s #WritingTips: “I have spent my life going from mania to mania. Somehow it has all paid off.”

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12 Comments

  1. Bradbury is one of the first authors I can remember listing as a favorite. I think I first recognized my love for his writing when I was about eight years old. My dad introduced us, and though he passed when I was twelve, I can hear the words of my father echoed in Bradbury and vice versa. I can tell a good writer by how acutely they expose the things I loved already.

    Reply
  2. Thanks for that remembrance, beautifully expressed. I think I know exactly what you mean.

    Ray Bradbury was the first author whose “voice” I became distinctly aware of, the first author I sought out at the library, the first author I spent my allowance on (at age 10), so that I could actually own his words to re-read whenever I wanted to (which was often). It wasn’t just the stories that attracted me, but the language, the poetry, the imagery, the mood, the metaphors. I don’t think there has ever been an author in the English language with a more distinctive mode of expression.

    His influence is one of the reasons I write today, and I miss sharing the planet with him.

    Thanks again for taking the time to share your thoughts and evoke these memories. —JD

    Reply
  3. Your blog is lovely, by the way. I’m a neophyte blogger, hoping to use the form as a method of improving my writing, ingesting quality media and exposing myself to excellent advice. Your blog has accomplished all those objectives 🙂 If you have any other blogs to suggest, I’d love to hear of them. I just finished a novel as well and am considering self-publishing; if you’re familiar with any good self-pub sites, tack those on too.

    Cheers!

    Reply
    • Thanks! I appreciate the kind words, and I’m glad to hear you find encouragement here. There’s a blogroll to the right of this page that lists a lot of sites (some belonging to friends of mine) that I would heartily recommend. I’m just beginning to get into indie publishing, with one fully self-pubbed nonfiction book in Amazon’s KDP: God and Soul, plus the reissue of my Timebenders series through an independent press, Greenbrier Books. So I don’t claim a lot of expertise in indie publishing or self publishing, but as I keep learning along the way, I’ll be posting on this blog. All the best!

      Reply
  4. Thank you for sharing these! I will return often to read them and reread them!

    Reply
  5. awesome tips! Thank you for sharing them! 😀

    Reply
  6. I did not realize that Mr. Bradbury wrote a book on writing. I’ll be ordering it from the library. Have you ever read Terry Brooks’ book on writing? It’s like listening to a kind, encouraging author.

    Reply
    • Thanks, Chris. I appreciate the recommendation on Terry Brooks’ book. I haven’t read it, but will look for it. You’ll enjoy Bradbury’s book. I found that re-reading “Zen in the Art of Writing” made more sense to me after I had read Sam Weller’s “The Bradbury Chronicles” and Jonathan Eller’s “Becoming Ray Bradbury.” These two books showed exactly how Bradbury put those principles into practice. All the best, J.D.

      Reply
  7. That is a very important tip, the fact that we should write what we love and not worry about money. Good point!

    Reply
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