Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Jumping Off Cliffs

You've got to jump off cliffs all the time and build your wings on the way down. ~Ray Bradbury

Oregon Coast July, 2011

Today is a day of endings.  And beginnings.  But the endings have left me weepy and ineffectual.  I learned that Ray Bradbury, one of the biggest influences on my reading and writing life, died yesterday.  Neil Gaiman speaks for all of us in this article, "A Man Who Won't Forget Ray Bradbury."  He talks of Bradbury's influence on him as a child.  Most of the writers and readers I know have similar stories about Mr. Bradbury.  (Neil Gaiman wrote more about it in this post simply title "Ray Bradbury.")

Today was also the last call of my Kaizen-Muse Creativity Coaching training.  More melancholy, but with the life of excitement for what's to come mixed in.  I'll write more about all of this soon, but I wanted to note it because it's an important milestone in my life.

But right now, I want to write about Ray Bradbury and me.  I guess this is my ROW80 check-in, too, because it is about my writing life.  I don't have a story to share tonight.  I'll finish my 52 Stories piece tomorrow.  Tonight is for reminiscing.

I don't remember when I first read a Ray Bradbury story.  I know by the time I was in middle school I'd already read quite a lot of them.  My favorite short stories were "All Summer in a Day" and "The Fog Horn."  These are still my favorites, and they both still make me cry when I read them.
By the summer before eighth grade I also had a favorite Bradbury book, Something Wicked This Way Comes.  This book opened up worlds to me.  I discovered that the title came from a line in a Shakespeare play.  This prompted me to get my very first book of Shakespeare's work (I still have that pretty, brown leatherette volume) and read the whole thing that summer.  I fell in love with even more words thanks to Mr. Bradbury.

In high school, my mind was stretched even more. Fahrenheit 451.  Still horrifying when I reread it now, but that first time really changed my views of what things might be possible in the world. 
Later, in my post graduate work, I took a class on short stories.  Our thesis project for the class was to choose an author to immerse ourselves in for the semester.  My pick?  Ray Bradbury, of course.  This led me to read Zen in the Art of Writing.  I was already writing.  This was the first time I started tentatively thinking of myself as a writer.

All of this has affected who I am, how I think, how and what I write.  Ray Bradbury changed the landscape of American literature and thinking.  What an incredible presence in our lives.  We were so lucky to have him.  Goodbye, Mr. Bradbury, and thank you for the stories.

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