Z is for Zen


“And what, you ask, does writing teach us? First and foremost, it reminds us that we are alive and that it is a gift and a privilege, not a right.” 

To be "zen" in your writing practice means to be in the moment. To be grateful and spontaneous, yet disciplined. It requires nothing and everything. It means that just showing up is half the battle. Imperfection is ok.

 It means that some days, no matter how hard you try, things get in your way, and that's life. Just find a path around them. There is always a path. There is always another way. 

Just ask Ray.

The Zen of Ray
When you put the words Zen and writing together, the first thing many people think of is Ray Bradbury's famed 1990s essay collection, Zen and the Art of Writing.

There's a good reason for that. Bradbury's enthusiasm is contagious, and his love of writing shines as he dispenses enough pearls of wisdom to string necklaces for a small country. 

Here's a sampling:

“That's the great secret of creativity. You treat ideas like cats: you make them follow you.” 
― Ray BradburyZen in the Art of Writing

“What are the best things and the worst things in your life, and when are you going to get around to whispering or shouting them?” 
― Ray BradburyZen in the Art of Writing: Essays on Creativity

“We must take arms each and every day, perhaps knowing that the battle cannot be entirely won, but fight we must, if only a gentle bout. The smallest effort to win means, at the end of each day, a sort of victory. Remember that pianist who said that if he did not pratice every day he would know, if he did not practice for two days, the critics would know, after three days, his audiences would know.

A variation of this is true for writers. Not that your style, whatever that is, would melt out of shape in those few days.

But what would happen is that the world would catch up with 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.” 
― Ray BradburyZen in the Art of Writing: Essays on Creativity

“Read poetry every day of your life. Poetry is good because it flexes muscles you don’t use often enough. Poetry expands the senses and keeps them in prime condition. It keeps you aware of your nose, your eye, your ear, your tongue, your hand.
And, above all, poetry is compacted metaphor or simile. Such metaphors, like Japanese paper flowers, may expand outward into gigantic shapes. Ideas lie everywhere through the poetry books, yet how rarely have I heard short story teachers recommending them for browsing.

What poetry? Any poetry that makes your hair stand up along your arms. Don’t force yourself too hard. Take it easy. Over the years you may catch up to, move even with, and pass T. S. Eliot on your way to other pastures. You say you don’t understand Dylan Thomas? Yes, but your ganglion does, and your secret wits, and all your unborn children. Read him, as you can read a horse with your eyes, set free and charging over an endless green meadow on a windy day.” 
― Ray BradburyZen in the Art of Writing

“No to write, for many of us, is to die.” 
― Ray BradburyZen in the Art of Writing

Update: Just came across an article titled Zen and the Art of Writing in the June 2016 issue of Writer's Digest.

“Write. Don't think. Relax.” 


  1. Zen in the Art of Writing is even better than Stephen King's On Writing. Great ending to the A to Z challenge!

    Carol at My Writing Journal

  2. It is complicated, of course, but I like Mr. Bradbury's statement that poetry is metaphor or simile. Using poetry as a vehicle for conveying my thoughts gives me the freedom of expression without the burden of spelling out every thought.

    Congratulations on completing your AtoZChallenge. Aloha!
    Thanks for visiting my site today (I responded to your comment.)

    Gail’s 2016 April A to Z Challenge

  3. Zen... and the end of the A to Z Challenge. As you started this blog for the Challenge I wonder what comes now. Will it sleep till next year or are you going on writing? I might find out.


  4. Thank you, Clao Wue. I'm not sure yet. There are plenty of other writing blogs and resources online, so it might be overkill. On the other hand, its been so much fun! Maybe I'll keep it going and just post weekly. :-)

  5. I love it when I get into a zen mode with writing. It usually ends with me being surprised at how many words I got. =)
    Congrats on finishing the challenge.

  6. I have that book. I read it from time to time, great selection of quotes from it but I envy his ability to just create this entire plot based on say one dinosaur toy and a TV set... Courtney - Maui Jungalow blog.


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