During the years that I lived in Santa Barbara, I always looked forward to the annual writer’s conference. Although I never attended the entire program, I often showed up for the evening talks given by successful writers.

The highlight for me was opening night when the legendary Ray Bradbury was the conference kick-off speaker. He was so popular that he held that distinction for years.

Members of the audience were often treated to personal information such as the fact that he refused to travel by air and would only go places that could be reached by car or train.

It was also not well known outside of Los Angeles that Bradbury and his wife supported an amatuer theater. He said that when they sat down to plan their new year, he’d ask her, “Is this our year to lose money on plays?” Most often, the answer was, “Yes.”

Even after all this time I recall him telling us that the way he wrote was simple. “I sit down at my desk every morning and ask my characters, ‘Where do you want to go today?’ and then I just follow them around with my typewriter.”

One year, I arrived early enough to get a front row seat. Surprisingly, nobody sat down next to me until Bradbury arrived and grabbed the empty seat. When it came time for him to speak, he handed me his notebook and asked if I’d hold it for him. It was most difficult to resist the temptation to peek inside.

I fervently believe that anyone sincerely interested in personal achievement has an obligation to themselves and their dreams to pay attention to wise folks who are farther down the path.

Bradbury was such a person for me.

Here are some of my favorite quotes from him. I hope it’s obvious to you why I admired him so much. By the way, you don’t have to be a writer to learn from his wise words.

We are an audience for miracles.

Write a story every week. It’s not possible to write 52 bad ones in a row.

There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them.

I’ve never worked a day in my life. The joy of writing has propelled me from day to day and year to year. I want you to envy me, my joy. Get out of here tonight and say: ‘Am I being joyful?’ And if you’ve got a writer’s block, you can cure it this evening by stopping whatever you’re writing and doing something else. You picked the wrong subject.

I want your loves to be multiple. I don’t want you to be a snob about anything. Anything you love, you do it. It’s got to be with a great sense of fun. Writing is not a serious business. It’s a joy and a celebration. You should be having fun with it.

If we listened to our intellect, we’d never have a love affair. We’d never have a friendship. We’d never go into business, because we’d be cynical. Well, that’s nonsense. You’ve got to jump off cliffs all the time and build your wings on the way down.

3 Responses to “Listening to a Wise Man”

  1. Margaret

    Oh, Barbara, thank you for sharing Bradbury’s wise words. This post couldn’t have come at a better time. I am going to my first Central Coast Writers Conference in a couple of weeks and I am excited about it.
    I will try his suggestion:
    “I sit down at my desk every morning and ask my characters, ‘Where do you want to go today?’ and then I just follow them around with my typewriter.”
    That and the write a story a week.

  2. Barbara Winter

    Oh, Margaret, I wish there was a Like button here for your comment. I also love his daring you to write 52 bad ones in a row!

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