September 25, 2014 by Ray Yanek
Sometimes through the din of everyday experience, Ray Bradbury speaks to me.
Hey, it’s better than some of the other—oh, nevermind.
But Bradbury does talk to me, through a plethora of remembered quotes. He tells me
often and repeatedly– because he knows how I procrastinate–that if I want to find success as a writer (or success in anything, for that matter) I have to practice everyday. He’s been telling me for awhile now that I should be writing “a short story every week” because “ it’s not possible to write 52 bad short stories in a row.” He recently started to demand from me that I get back to “four pages a day, every day”. because “that’s three or four hundred thousand words a year. Most of that will be bilge, but the rest …? It will save your life!”
And I’ve finally started to listen. I’m getting back into the writing swing after a summer dry spell. Last week, I drafted a 2000 word short story and found another idea for a story this week. It felt so good get back into that flow. Comfortable. Homey.
Then, sooner than usual, things started to go awry.
The story for this week had grown in my mind. It had picked up multiple viewpoints and a deeper need for worldbuilding. The characters were demanding more flesh and the setting more life. Outside, my students clamored for more time, the school for more work, and Ray kept spouting more gibberish in my head and I was starting to panic, fearing that I was about to fail in another of my 1000 hair-brained “personal challenges”.
Yesterday, life piled it on even deeper. I only had a half day with my students, but the afternoon was spent in faculty meetings while five sections of essays were cooling upstairs on my desk. I was anxious and stressed, irritable, because after work, I had to buzz right home, change, get my daughter and head to the softball field for her school softball pictures. After pictures, I would have maybe an hour (a blessed, blessed hour) to kill before my son’s soccer practice started. My assistant coach texted me earlier in the day to tell me she wouldn’t be there as she needed to get caught up in the quilting class she has been taking (hey, we’re a rough and tumble soccer team, what can I say?) so I would be on on my own. After that practice, I would have to hustle back to the softball field for my daughter’s travel softball practice where girls would throw fastballs (and I mean fastballs) at my head for another hour. Next around eight or so, it would be off to supper, homework, showers, and finally to bed.
I knew too, the weekend would bring soccer games, softball tournaments and a 100 more things. I was never going to find the time to get that story drafted.
It was going be another failure.
After the pictures, I tried to stay quiet for a minute myself. I took a breath and calmed myself the best I could. I had hour. I could get a little something done and at least say I tried.
But instead of planting my ass Hemingway-style in front of the computer, I chose instead to go for a run.
Ray didn’t argue. In fact, he stayed completely silent.
He let me go and allowed me to fall into the rhythm of the run, the only demand on me being that I kept myself in motion. My mind began slipping into that stillness, that peace, that presence, I often found while running this last summer.
Then things started to make sense.
Don’t rush the long story, something inside of me said. It still needs time. Write something else this week, something more manageable.
Write what though? I didn’t have any other ideas.
A part of me knew that I needed to let that doubt go and focus on the run, on the sound of my feet against the pavement, on the rise and fall of my chest, on the chill of the sweat on my arms.
Writing is about living life and collecting things, I found myself thinking. My life was hectic enough, busy enough, that even though my conscious mind may not have recognized it my subconscious mind continuously vacuumed millions of pieces of lint.
Then back to the run, to the way my legs started to burn as I strode up the incline, to the feel of the late summer sun and breeze on my shoulders.
I thought about my assistant coach missing our soccer practice to work on her quilt.
The story idea came hard and fast after that– from a spark to a flame to a bonfire that would keep kindling for the rest of the night. By the time the run was completed, just a short 20 minutes to myself, I had an idea for a story.
That story will be about a boy hiding under a blanket. It may or may not have a happy ending.
And with that story and experience, lo and behold, I also found another blog entry.
Twenty minutes. That was all it took.
Then Ray started talking again. He was repeating what I had earlier heard through the cacophony of stress, responsibilities, and commitments as only gibberish: “The time we have alone, the time we have in walking, the time we have in riding a bicycle, is the most important time for a writer. . . You have to give the subconscious time to think. Real thinking always occurs at the subconscious level.”
I agree and the next time I run, which will be soon, I’ll be the one talking in that stillness. I’ll tell God–because I think He lives in that stillness too, thanks for helping me get back into running this summer and thanks for sending the spirit of Ray Bradbury my way.
But then I’ll go back to being quiet, to listening, to letting those deeper parts search for the answers. I hope that you all can find time to do the same.
Although Ray Bradbury quotes can be found everywhere, I found this site while searching for the exact wording of his quotes. All the quotes I used above can be found here as a lot of other insightful things. Enjoy!