“You’ve gotta be inspired and mad and excited and love it more than anything else in the world! And if any girl doesn’t like what you’re doing, out of your life! And if any of your friends make fun of you, your male friends, to hell with them! Out! Out. It has to be this kind of… “By God, I’ve gotta do it, I’ve simply gotta do it! And if you’re not this excited, you can’t win.”
That’s Ray Bradbury, dispensing his invaluable advice. Reading about his story as a writer is very rewarding, particularly as it seems to apply in so many ways to my own life, and my own experiences as a writer. I’ve had friends and family tell me to give it up, dated girls who didn’t think much of what I was doing or couldn’t be bothered to stick around long enough to see if it panned out. But that’s never really mattered. It made sense to me, and I’ve always felt that anyone who couldn’t see it that way just needed more time. They’ll come around, once they see what I’m seeing.
Back in 2008 I was still in school, and drove from Phoenix over to San Diego for the annual Comic Con. I’d never been before, I had no idea what to expect. I arrived, and most shocking, besides the staggering lack of parking, was that I needed to buy a ticket in advance. I figured you could just get them at the door, when you showed up, like cinema tickets. That made sense to me at the time, but then, I didn’t really understand what Comic Con was.
Walking through the crowds of people and robots and aliens and characters from my favourite shows and movies and things I’d never really considered possible before, I managed to catch a peek of a crowd of people moving together, pushing the throng out of the way. I asked someone what was going on, and they said, “It’s Ray Bradbury.”
When I had finished picking my jaw off the floor, I jabbed and elbowed and sucker punched enough people to make my way to the front of the crowd and there he was, in a chair, smiling happily and waving, just like a normal person. Forget Shia LaBeouf or Hayden Panettiere, I knew who I wanted my picture with.
When it was my turn, I wanted to just pull up a chair and talk for hours. But I handed my camera off, and tried to think of something intelligent to say. I came up blank. What do you say to Ray Bradbury? What in your life possibly prepares you for that moment? Well, I did the best I could, and just asked him for advice. I asked him what he would tell a new writer, someone starting from the beginning. He said,
“Don’t ever quit, don’t ever give up. Do it with all your heart, and don’t listen to the naysayers. Do what you want to do, and as long as you’re doing that, nothing else matters.”
Well, it’s pretty hard to argue with that. I think I just smiled and nodded and thanked him, and then fell back into the crowd, still lost in the moment.
His words have stuck with me to this day, and I don’t think I’ll ever forget the feeling I had when I was standing there listening to him. Here was a man who had made it. He’d figured out what he wanted to do, and he’d done it, and he’d made his whole life out of doing it. What more could you ask besides that?
“A writer moves about observing, seeing as much as he can, trying to guess how man will play the game. Constantly measuring life the way it is, against the way he feels it ought to be. He’s a magnet, passing through a factual world, taking from it what he needs.”
I think I’ll make a cup of tea and do some writing.