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“Does creativity like loud or soft voices?”

Wow! I wish I had written that line. But no, it came from the mind and spirit of Ray Bradbury, writer of short stories, novels, plays and essays and lover of life and art.  Fahrenheit 451 is likely his best known novel where books are relentlessly hunted down and burned by the firemen. The hatred of thought and feeling abounds in that future world!

Recently, I came across a book entitled Zen in the art of Writing by Ray Bradbury. When I started reading, his passion, excitement and love of life and writing jumped off the page, knocked me down and dragged me in.

But what was he asking in his question about creativity? First of all, it was asked in the context of discussing the voice of the author and his characters. Is creativity working at its best when it shouts in joy, fear or anger? Or is it better when it whispers in your ear some insidious thought or some subtle, complex of emotions? I’m pretty sure the answer to the question is “some of each”.

To Ray Bradbury, it seems that creativity is best expressed with drama, conflict, clashing of opposites and bold decisiveness. Just look at his writing. So much of it depends on deep and frightening conflict usually found in nightmares. I don’t mean that alien creatures are forever leaping out at the reader. With Bradbury, some of the most frightening scenes are drawn from the depths of the human psyche. That means you and I are the scariest of all!

Botticelli's Venus de Milo

Botticelli’s Venus de Milo

But one, he says, can be roused by a quiet story. It need not shout at anyone to get attention. Gently, but provocatively told it can soothe and excite the mind and spirit all at once. Just think, he says, of the painting Venus De Milo by Botticelli that there is a calm beauty which excites the emotions and intellect.

Here’s the interesting part. With the quiet voice, Bradbury then says that the spectator [reader, gallery goer, film buff] becomes just as important as the work of art.  I think he means that a quiet dialogue is set up between writer and reader which makes the reader “go inside himself” and consider the work from the different angles of his own life experience.    

Bradbury says that, as writers, we forget to look inside ourselves for inspiration for our work. Here, I love the way he expresses the idea. Pointing to the subconscious he says it is a vast storehouse of our own personal experiences and reflections from the very beginning to the present day whatever that may be. And most of us do not even know that it is inside us. His point is that we should take care of what goes into that dark chasm—the subconscious because it never, ever forgets.

But there’s more—much more. The entire experience of the human race is lodged within the collective unconscious. That’s the experience of our ancestors. I like to think of the collective unconscious as a sort of vast and jumbled [as perceived by us] library available to us if only we can find the key—within ourselves.

Bradbury is very excited about the act of writing and creating really anything. Most important, it’s his passion for it that ignites this book of essays and hopefully spurs the writer on to his creation.

There are plenty of books on writing. A lot of them are filled with someone else’s rules and regulations—the ones that work for them. Bradbury steps beyond all the rule driven advice and insists that you must find your own path in your own way but do so with gusto and touch the quicksilver of life.

In my view, creativity can never be taught. It’s more of an attitude or view of the world and the love of story. I’ve just finished writing Night Crossing, the third in The Trilogy of Remembrance. In this novel, which will be published in 2014, Alexander Wainwright, Britain’s finest landscape artist searches for answers to the riddles of art, creativity, life and love as he travels from London to Paris and then on to St. Petersburg and back. I wish I had come across this little book of essays while I was writing it.

I found Bradbury’s book of essays so stimulating to the imagination and creativity that I consumed them all in an afternoon. I’m going to share some more ideas in his essays with you over the next few days, so stay tuned. But just before I hit the “publish” button, I want to add that I found a really interesting contrast to this approach from the mythologist Joseph Campbell which I plan to write about in this space soon.

In the meantime, here’s a video of Ray Bradbury and his advice to writers. His enthusiasm is catching, Enjoy! And, as always, I’d love to hear from you, so please add a comment.

Mary E. Martin is the author of two trilogies: The Osgoode Trilogy, inspired by her many years of law practice; and The Trilogy of Remembrance, set in the glitter and shadows of the art world. Both Trilogies will elevate the reader from the rush and hectic world of today and spin them into realms of yet unimagined intrigue. Be inspired by the newly released and final installment of The Trilogy of Remembrance, Night Crossing.


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