If you ever hanker for inspiration from a great author, take a look at Ray Bradbury. Not only did he create many celebrated works, he was also a fascinating human being with a remarkable attitude toward life. I love reading about Bradbury, and in particular, I love to read about how he approached writing.
In his little book on composition entitled Zen in the Art of Writing, Bradbury shares a secret to his incredible energy, which always bursts forth in his writing:
“Here is my formula...what do you love, and what do you hate?”
He goes on to describe how valuable an exercise it is—and how utterly reliable—to write about one's passions. This remains a surefire means of finding writing material. As long as a writer feels, that person can find something to write about. Bradbury continues later:
“Ideas lie everywhere, like apples fallen and melting in the grass for lack of wayfaring strangers with an eye and a tongue for beauty.”
Bradbury’s formula—starting with love and hate to generate writing—has stuck with me for many years. On any given project, if I struggle to begin, I always go back to his advice. The things that I feel passionately about have formed my foundation for countless hours of writing.
So I recommend the same approach to you. If you find yourself staring at a blank page, recall Bradbury’s formula. Can you write about something you feel strongly about? Do that. Even if the angle you take at first doesn’t work in the long run, you got started, and that's the most important thing.
Now Bradbury wasn’t stupid, and he recognizes that what we write in a passion often needs work later. He emphasizes the joy of writing about things we feel deeply about at the start, and he stresses that we should worry about fixing it at a different time:
“Today—explode—fly apart—disintegrate! The other six or seven drafts are going to be pure torture. So why not enjoy the first draft, in the hope that your joy will seek and find others in the world who, reading your story, will catch fire, too?”
Enjoying that first draft—the utter freedom of it—has become crucial to my process. I wouldn’t dream of approaching it in any other way.
So if you find yourself stuck, I highly encourage you to do a quick brainstorm. Ask yourself, “What do I love, and what do I hate?” Write about that. Draft from passion, and the pages will come to life.