Years ago, one of the friends I made through our mutual love of sports and entertainment suggested we together embark on a journey through Ray Bradbury’s Zen in the Art of Writing, but while I bought the book, the project with my buddy, Shane, never came to fruition. Sports being my primary escape from the real world and sports being currently inactive, however, I have been seeking other avenues to avoid allowing my world to get too serious; and I happened across Zen. I thought I’d go through Bradbury’s book on my own. I will share here my musings, chapter by chapter. If you feel so inclined to join me, this is a link to the book.
The preface is where I’ll start my musings because, frankly, the preface was rather eye-opening. I don’t interact with many people who enjoy writing as much as I do, who find the escape in it like I do, or at least I have never talked about that joy and escape with many people before. I imagine that, if I did, what Ray Bradbury wrote about writing in the preface would be an underlying theme of each conversation.
He talks about writing being a way to process the world through art. God I love that way of putting it. I’ve not thought enough about the art of writing to reflect on the various things that I’ve written over the years as me processing the world through it; I guess I was too busy writing to think much about why I was doing it. I shudder to think, though, of what my life would look like without the written word.
So much of my life has revolved around writing. It has been for me a therapeutic exercise, for my mind what jogging is for the body; it has been my outlet to escape from the real world; it has been one of my greatest passions, having written two acclaimed books under a pen name and thousands of articles about sports entertainment and health; it has been my language of love, my preferred method of expression to the people I care about most; it has blocked out the noisy world that tends to trap me inside my headspace, where lies plenty of self-judgment among other things.
In the closing lines of the preface, Bradbury says, “Every morning I jump out of bed and step on a landmine. The landmine is me. After the explosion, I spend the rest of the day putting the pieces together.” To be honest, if not for the written word, I might always find myself picking up pieces of me and never be able to start the day whole again before jumping onto the next landmine.
After thinking about it for several days, I think what I appreciate most about writing is the focus it brings, which speaks to Bradbury’s point about using it to process. I wear my heart on my sleeve, ever decreasingly volatile but assuredly worthy of the label “an emotional guy.” Writing is a way to express myself carefully, with emotion still but in a far more controlled manner. I’ve always felt that my best written work clearly exhibited my passion for the subject matter, but in an efficient presentation that left little doubt as to my central point. Words can be messy and emotions make them messier; the spoken word is the most frequent harbinger for the messiness (with social media “writing” vying for first place on that list for reasons on which I’m still marinating). Life is messy, of course, but writing gives some better structure to the mess.
Processing the world through art, though? I guess I had never thought of it that way. Though I can certainly vouch for the feeling of artistic achievement I’ve had after finishing a piece that I just knew in my bones was top notch, there have been but a very few things I’ve written that I’ve honestly thought of as “art.” This writing project, going through the book, is going to be spent exploring the art form.