By Rene Allen
It is 4:15 in the morning. There was so much moonlight coming through the shutters I thought it must be much later so I got up. That moon is working at full capacity just now, reflecting a full circle of sunlight onto this dark-sided earth. It makes me think of my ANWA sisters, those night-writers who also get up early or go to bed very late. Writing is the best thing to do when you are up before the birds and only the cats and the occasional evil cockroach are awake with you.
Some years ago, a writing teacher gave me the book "Zen and the Art of Writing" by Ray Bradbury. He identified in my struggle to unearth the truth about my life, some of the same drive he found in Bradbury’s essays. For example, consider his opening line: “Sometimes I am stunned at my capacity as a nine-year old to understand my entrapment and escape it.” It was immediate resonance.
But it is what he has to say about writing that catches my attention this morning.
“First and foremost,” wrote Bradbury in the preface to “Zen,” “it is a gift and a privilege, not a right.” This little book that includes essays from thirty years of a prolific writing career was published in 1994. At that time there already was a sense of entitlement in our society that has proliferated like spring weeds. Today, I believe, there are too many who lack the discipline to acknowledge something as a gift and privilege and feel appreciation and gratitude for opportunity. Instead, they rant and pout and demand guarantees from nebulous government overlords because it is “their right.” It is interesting to apply Bradbury’s paradigm to writing. Perhaps it explains much of the ill-written and poorly structured writing that is all too common. Grammatical errors notwithstanding, somehow the stuff gets published.
And second, Bradbury claims, it is survival. “Not to write, for many of us, is to die.”
What happens by not writing, he explains, is “that the world would catch up with you and try to sicken you. If you did not write every day, the poisons would accumulate and you would begin to die, or act crazy, or both.
“You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.”
Oh, how I love a great one-liner, the well-turned phrase that just “says it.”
Great big generic Life brings great big generic problems and I have had a bunch lately. Of course, when I compare, I can always find someone with bigger worries but comparing really doesn’t help me with mine except to fire up a guilt surge because I should be happier—you know how that score goes—and anything I should be doing and am not doing is really not going to help, either. But writing . . . now there is something better than a bottle of Prozac and that costs less than a piece of bubble gum. It may even, through the clarifying light of putting something on paper,bring peace, calm, optimism and could possibly lead to resolution.
I agree with Bradbury. “I have learned on my journeys, that if I let a day go by without writing, I grow uneasy. Two days and I am in a tremor. Three and I suspect lunacy. . . . An hour’s writing is tonic.”
P.S. This is a terrific little book . . .