I recently stumbled across an article for school about the famous science-fiction writer Ray Bradbury. While preparing to read Fahrenheit 451, we were required to research its author and answer questions regarding his personality and ideas about education, writing, and life in general. It was 12:00 on a Wednesday night and I was on the computer after a few very laborious hours of studying for AP History, struggling to keep my eyelids from drooping as I scribbled the last few sentences of English homework that would mean sleep and the end of a stressful night, when I came across a certain line in the article that triggered one of those rare and glorious moments that instantly make me drop everything I’m doing and contemplate the meaning of life. (For those of you who don’t know: Life = Writing)
Ray Bradbury died a few months ago, but at the time the article was written he was just recovering from a recent stroke. When the interviewer asked him how he was coping with the near-death experience, he replied that he was quite fine, thank you very much, and currently working on two novels and a few short stories. “To hell with it,” he had said.
Those four words flashed before my weary eyes and then slowly processed in my sleep-deprived brain, instilling within me a deep and lasting respect to Mr. Bradbury, a man I’ve never even met.
“To hell with it.”
If he was going down, he was going down writing.
This reminded me of what the craft of writing really is. It’s constantly (and rather annoyingly) stressed that it consists of theme, author’s purpose, similes, metaphors and personification and it does… but to an extent. There is another aspect of writing that is often overlooked – a reason that explains why not just anyone can be an author.
Writing is an art, and like all forms of art, its artist must pledge full allegiance to it. The true writer dedicates herself to her writing, heart and soul. No amount of persuasion or criticism or doubt could ever draw her away from her mighty pen. She will fight for it, tooth and nail. She will defy the reviews. She will tear that dreaded wall of Writer’s Block down, brick by brick. She will lunge forth onto her path of self-discovery and will not allow temptation to lead her onto the easier road, the road that requires setting the story aside.
It is a sacrifice. To be a writer means to put the story before yourself. To always fight the good fight and take the blows as they come. You will suffer for your creation. It will be your downfall, and it will be your salvation. You are investing your life in those words. They have chosen you to be their portal: the means to get themselves onto paper. You’re completely at their mercy.
Words are constantly coming and going, a bit like uninvited guests walking unabashedly through the doors of your soul without knocking. Sometimes you’ll invite them in and oftentimes you’ll try to shut them out. You experience a kind of strange telepathy as the words come hurling at you like bullets from every corner of the universe and shove their way down your throat, past your vital organs and into your fingertips. If you put them down on paper and help them do what they came to do, you’ll experience ecstasy in its purest and truest form- the ultimate high. If you don’t release them, there’ll be hell to pay. They’ll find ways to cut you and choke you and put you through all various forms of abuse and distress; but the very worst thing they can do to you is disappear entirely. Leave the words inside of you untouched, neglected, and in time they will fade away. This is the worst sort of punishment that words can bestow upon their beholder: to desert you completely, abandoning you to an empty life without them. My advice to any writer: Don’t neglect your words.
And so we write. And we write continuously, religiously. We write all the time. It has become the center of our lives- the essence of our very being. It is who we are. Mr. Bradbury is the perfect example of the genuine passionate writer. He will not put the pen down. He will not set the story aside. He will not let his words die away. He has what so many do not- the ability to love what he does. And that is such a very beautiful thing.
You, dear and beloved Reader, must strive to be like Ray Bradbury. When failure mocks you, dancing in front of you with tantalizing eyes and a wicked grin, find the courage to rise defiantly against it. Echo the words of Mr. Bradbury. Honor his spirit that lives on in every passionate writer. Nothing can stop you from doing what you love- only you. Embrace the words. Embrace the things that kill you, because those are most often the things worth dying for.
Pick up the pen. To hell with it.