If you have been on the Internet for any amount of time today, you have probably heard about the passing of Ray Bradbury, one of science fiction’s legends.
I was in high school, 16 years old, when I received a copy of Chicken Soup for the Writer’s Soul. Though I liked the book itself, one particular essay stood out to me: the very last one in the book, called “How to be Madder Than Captain Ahab” by Ray Bradbury.
Since then, I’ve read a few of his books and far more of his short stories. But it’s still his essay in Chicken Soup for the Writer’s Soul that sticks with me the most:
To sum it all up, if you want to write, if you want to create, you must be the most sublime fool that God ever turned out and sent rambling.
You must write every single day of your life.
You must read dreadful dumb books and glorious books, and let them wrestle in beautiful fights inside your head, vulgar one moment, brilliant the next.
You must lurk in libraries and climb the stacks like ladders to snuff books like perfumes and wear books like hats upon your crazy heads.
I wish for you a wrestling match with your Creative Muse that will last a lifetime.
I wish craziness and foolishness and madness upon you.
May you live with hysteria, and out of it make fine stories.
Which finally means, may you be in love every day for the next 20,000 days. And out of that love, remake a world.
Every time I look at the clock and realize I’ve spent four hours straight in a world entirely inside my head, every time I look at my TBR pile and feel like jumping into it and rolling around like Scrooge McDuck, every time the clock strikes midnight on November 1 and I begin yet another year of the insanity that is NaNoWriMo, I think of this essay.
I think of Bradbury’s encouragement to read and write and be an absolute lunatic, no matter what the people around you say. I think of his advice to do what is right for you, what makes your heart sing, instead of knuckling under when people make fun of you or express skepticism.
When you’re 16-17 years old, about to head to college and everybody in your life is just chock-full of advice, reading something like that is eye-opening. Inspiring. And his words have never left me.
Thank you, Mr. Bradbury, for your stories, your worlds, and your encouragement. Our world is a better place because of you and your work, and it’s a little dimmer now that your light has left it.
I promise you, I will do my very best to be the most sublime fool that God ever turned out and sent rambling.
I promise to read good books and bad books and big books and little books and everything in between.
I promise to wrestle with my muse from now till kingdom come.
And I hope someday, I can create a story that you would call fine.
Rest in peace, good sir.