In 2001, Bradbury spoke at Point Loma Nazrene University in San Diego, California, where he imparted his wisdom: Read the greats, broaden your mind, and write like hell.
We've heard it before - practice makes perfect - but nowhere is this message delivered with greater honesty, more clarity, and deeper conviction than when it comes out of Ray Bradbury's mouth. Because this is a man who waited until he was 30 before he wrote his first novel, Fahrenheit 451, and who spent the previous 18 years writing "millions of words" until he got it right.
In an age of instant gratification and overnight success stories (a very bad idea for writers, by the way - overnight success usually kills a writer's career), Bradbury's words of wisdom may fall on deaf ears.
But that does not make them any less true. Here is the writer's problem, as Bradbury saw it:
"The problem with novels is you can spend a whole year writing one and it might not turn out well."
He's right. In fact, chances are that if that novel is the only thing you have ever written, it will turn out to be a piece of crap. Unfortunately, writers are a stubborn lot - fixated on their "little darlings" and their plans for world domination.
Nonetheless, those who are wise will follow Bradbury's advice:
"If you can write one short story a week, it doesn’t matter what the quality is to start – at least you’re practicing. At the end of the year you have 52 short stories. And I defy you to write 52 bad ones. It can’t be done. After 30 or 40 weeks, all of a sudden a story will come that is wonderful – just wonderful. That’s what happened to me..."
While you're coming up with your wonderful gem, read the great short story writers: Richard Matheson, Nigel Kneal, John Collier (brilliant short stories), Edith Wharton, Edgar Allen Poe, Melville, Hawthorn. Read the great poems. Read the great essays, from various fields. "Stuff your heads!"
Watch this fabulous video - this man is one of the greats, and well worth listening to.
Ray Bradbury, August 22, 1920 – June 5, 2012