Tuesday, September 04, 2007

At Sea With My Writing: Part Four

(This is a section of a story running here in serial about a writing crisis on the ocean liner QE2 that resulted in a dramatic change in my approach to my work.)


Next day--I'm losing track of the days, and I'm not working on my book, I'm thinking about it. I've resolved to hold off writing, to think as long as I need. Easier to do here than it would be at home.

A lecture by science fiction writer Ray Bradbury: I remember my excitement when I first read a story of his in high school. Yes, he is working on a new novel on this cruise, he said, while waiting to go onstage. And he has written on this ship before. On an earlier crossing he got an idea for a new novel the night he boarded. He saw a passenger in a hallway, "some sort of English lord," a man whose face had been "horribly destroyed." Bradbury was so upset by the thought of a man losing his face that he burst into tears. And then he began writing. He finished the first 100 pages of A Graveyard for Lunatics on that voyage, working at night on a soundless typewriter.

His speech was, like my stateroom, exactly what I wanted. He told the audience how in 1929 when he was 12, he "fell in love with the future," and began collecting Buck Rogers spaceman comic strips. "All the kids in fifth grade made fun of me." And so he tore up his collection, then regretted it. Doing that, he said, "I killed myself. I killed the future. I listened to the damn fools."

He returned to Buck Rogers, whatever the other fifth-graders might think. When his big break came, years later, it was because of boyhood passions he'd held onto. Director John Huston, on reading a Bradbury story about a dinosaur, called to ask if he'd like to write a screenplay, in the same spirit, about a white whale.

2 comments:

heather (errantdreams) said...

Have you ever read Bradbury's "Zen in the Art of Writing"? It's incredibly poetic and inspiring! I am in awe of that man's talent and personality.

Peggy said...

I haven't, but will look it up. I didn't even know about this book. Thanks, Heather.