Ray Bradbury on Books, Writing, and Being Your Own Self


"How to Be Madder than Captain Ahab"  by Ray Bradbury in Chicken Soup for the Soul:

"I have been a library jackdaw all of my life, which means I have never gone into that lovely holy place with a book list, but only with my beady bright eyes and my curious paws, monkey-climbing the stacks over among the children's and then again where I was not allowed, burrowing among the adult's mysterious books. I would take home, at the age of ten, eight books at a time, from eight different categories, and rub my nose in them and all but lie down and roll on them like a frolicsome springtime dog...."

"and the more you read, the more the ideas begin to explode around inside your head, run riot, meet head-on in beautiful collisions so that when you go to bed at night the damned visions color the ceiling and light the walls with huge exploits and wonderful discoveries...."

"I may start a night's read with a James Bond novel, move on to Shakespeare for half an hour, dip into Dylan Thomas for five minutes, make a fast turnabout and fasten on Fu Manchu, that great and evil oriental doctor, ancestor of Dr. No, then pick up Emily Dickinson, and end my evening with Ross MacDonald, the detective novelist, or Robert Frost, that crusty poet of the American rural spirit.  The fact should be plain now: I am an amiable compost heap...."

"I am a junkyard, then, of all the libraries and bookstores I ever fell into or leaned upon, and am proud that I never developed such a rare taste that I could not go back and jog with Tarzan or hit the Yellow Brick Road with Dorothy, both characters and their books banned for fifty years by all librarians and most educators.  I have had my own loves, and gone my own way to become my own self. I highly recommend you do the same.  However crazy your desire, however wild your need, however dumb your taste may seem to others....follow it!"
And on writing:


To sum it all up, if you want to write, if you want to create, you must be the most sublime fool that God ever turned out and sent rambling.
You must write every single day of your life.
You must read dreadful dumb books and glorious books, and let them wrestle in beautiful fights inside your head, vulgar one moment, brilliant the next.
You must lurk in libraries and climb the stacks like ladders to sniff books like perfumes and wear books like hats upon your crazy heads.
I wish for you a wrestling match with your Creative Muse that will last a lifetime.
I wish craziness and foolishness and madness upon you.
May you live with hysteria, and out of it make fine stories.
Which finally means, may you be in love every day for the next 20,000 days. And out of that love, remake a world.
(Ray Bradbury, "How to Be Madder Than Captain Ahab." Quoted by William Safire and Leonard Safir inGood Advice on Writing. Simon & Schuster, 1992) 
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