It’s one of my favorite pieces of writing advice from Ray Bradbury, and it’s blindingly brilliant in its utter simplicity. If you want to identify the ideas you should write about, the themes you can write passionately and believably about, follow this advice:
Make a list of ten things you love, ten things you hate, and ten things you fear. Write to celebrate the things you love, and write to destroy the things you hate and fear.
Bradbury put it this way in an interview with his biographer, Sam Weller:
“You can’t write for other people. You can’t write for the left or the right, this religion or that religion, or this belief or that belief. You have to write the way you see things. I tell people, Make a list of ten things you hate and tear them down in a short story or poem. Make a list of ten things you love and celebrate them. When I wrote Fahrenheit 451 I hated book burners and I loved libraries. So there you are.”
[Interview with Sam Weller, “Ray Bradbury, The Art of Fiction No. 203,” The Paris Review, Spring 2010, http://www.theparisreview.org/interviews/6012/the-art-of-fiction-no-203-ray-bradbury.%5D
Bradbury expressed his advice this way in a 2001 keynote address at the Point Loma Writer’s Symposium By the Sea:
“Make a list of ten things you love—madly!—and write about them. Make a list of ten things you hate—and kill them! And make a list of the things you fear, your own personal nightmares, and write about them. And then the accumulation of other things that you’re not sure actually happened to you, but intuitively you write about them, as in my book Dandelion Wine.”
Bradbury also had a potent little nugget of advice for those who wrestle with writer’s block: “If you have writer’s block, you can cure it right now by stopping what you’re writing and doing something else.”