The Night I Met Ray Bradbury

Ray Bradbury died yesterday, June 5 2012. A big slice of American popular culture went with him. His contributions to our collective imagination were huge.
A little over twenty years ago, before I was a published author myself, I went to hear Ray Bradbury speak at the Woodland Hills Public Library. This was the library I grew up in, and Bradbury was one of the writers I admired most. I’d read The Illustrated Man in junior high school, and it was one of those books you read that just blows you away. It was the imagination on fire and set free, and I knew I wanted to be able to do something like that someday.

His talk that night was full of sprightly fun and reminiscences. I took notes on some of the things he said:

• Do word associations, as a way of letting your subconscious tell you what is inside you.

• Creating is NOT about fame, NOT about money. It's about having fun.

• Just do it.

• 2,000 words a day for 57 years. That wasn't work. That was fun!

• The intellectuals want us to believe it's no good unless it's tortured. The hell with that!

• Do what you love. Let it out into the world. If you're lucky, you'll get some money. But if you don't, do it anyway.

• “I work for free. I haven't made any money on any of my plays. But I love theatre. And I put up productions around town. And when I see the actors who've been in them on the street, we embrace, because we did what we loved and we had this experience together. For free. All the money went to my actors.”

• Don't think while you're doing it. Think after it's done.

• He uses no outlines, nothing. He wakes up in the morning and lays in bed until his characters, his voices, compel him to “scramble to the typer” and record them before they get away.

He signed books after his talk, so I stood in line with my treasured copy of ZEN IN THE ART OF WRITING, his essays on creativity and the craft. I introduced myself and we shook hands.

"Are you a writer?" he asked.

I quoted from the book: "'Stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.'"

He laughed and said, "Oh, you must!"

I asked him if he set himself a daily quota, and he said, “No, I let my love determine how much I write."

"Ah, so you fall in love daily?"

"That's right."

He signed my book. "Do you write every day?" he asked.

"Five days a week," I said. "Weekends are for my family."

He laughed again. "That's the way to do it!"

He offered his hand again and said, "God bless you."

And off I went into the night, feeling blessed indeed for having had the chance to talk to one of the legends of our literature.

Ray Bradbury, American original. Rest in Peace.
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