The Fear Chronicles: Ray Bradbury and Getting Things Done*

Type “Ray Bradbury and quotes” into any search engine and what you’ll get is pure inspiration. From the famous sci-fi author of Fahrenheit 451 and The Martian Chronicles, you’ll find quotes about love and reading and living and rebellion and getting on with things. Quotes about imagination and exploration and dreaming.  Quotes that bring tears to the eyes with their genuine enthusiasm for life and literature.

Try these on for size:

“You must write every single day of your life… You must lurk in libraries and climb the stacks like ladders to sniff books like perfumes and wear books like hats upon your crazy heads… may you be in love every day for the next 20,000 days. And out of that love, remake a world.”

and

“Love. Fall in love and stay in love. Write only what you love, and love what you write. The word is love. You have to get up in the morning and write something you love, something to live for.”

and

“I have two rules in life – to hell with it, whatever it is, and get your work done.”

I went looking for fear and found barely a whiff.  I found instead the kind of stuff that made me want to jump to my computer and write all day.  I found a cheerleader.

Listen to any interview with Bradbury and you’ll hear his joy for life and his work in every word. He seems to be the picture of optimism, though he pivots on that point:

“So I’ve learned that by doing things, things get done. I’m not an optimist. I’m an optimal behaviorist . . . we ensure that future by doing it.”

I like what he says here. Being merely optimistic isn’t enough, because it seems to remove or ignore personal agency; in other words, you can be an optimist all day long and hope for the very best, and still get nothing done. Bradbury takes optimism a step further into the realm of action. He makes the no-brainer-ist of statements—“by doing things, things get done”—and yet it’s a surprisingly fresh statement, at least to me. This idea of just “doing things” foregoes the painful wait for the Muse, and thumbs its nose at her fickle timing. Why wait for her, when you can just get things done? It’s a practical approach to writing, which isn’t to say that Bradbury’s writing process was devoid of passion or inspiration. You have only to look at the few quotes I shared to know this isn’t the case.

In a video interview with Bradbury, he talks about his long-time fear of flying, which he eventually conquered in his 60s. He was forced to fly when his train home from Florida to California was canceled. On his experience of finally flying, he says, “I discovered along the way I wasn’t afraid of flying, I was just afraid of me: that I would run up and down the aisle screaming with hysteria.”

This is where fear lives for some of us: not in the writing itself, not in the computer or the notepad, not even in the ideas, necessarily, but rather in ourselves, in the possibility that we’ll do something crazy, hysterical, bizarre with those ideas… that we’ll embarrass ourselves.

Bradbury, champion and cheerleader, has some words for us on this point, too:

“Self-consciousness is the enemy of all art.”

and

“Don’t think. Thinking is the enemy of creativity. It’s self-conscious and anything self-conscious is lousy.”

Once again, I love how laconically he dismisses self-consciousness (aka fear): it’s lousy. And who wants to associate with something lousy? So, be done with it, get over it.

Love words, write words, and get things done.

*I’ve changed the title of this series about fear from “The Chronicles of Fear” to “The Fear Chronicles,” which is what I always intended it to be. It’s an homage to Bradbury and The Martian Chronicles, and for some reason, in my excitement about the Joyce Carol Oates post, I botched the title. Mea culpa.

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7 thoughts on “The Fear Chronicles: Ray Bradbury and Getting Things Done*

  1. These are some awesome quotes. “…by doing things, things get done.” Simple and yet, profound.

  2. I like this Bradbury quote–“I wish craziness & foolishness & madness upon you. May you live with hysteria & out of it make fine stories.”

    • I like that quote, too, Jacqui! There were so many great ones to choose from…it was hard to narrow it down.

  3. I absolutely adore Mr. Bradbury! Had the joy of meeting him and getting my copy of F451 signed when he was doing his tour during its anniversary. He is one of my inspirations…

  4. May you be in love every day for the next 20,000 days – is there better advice anywhere in the world? What a wonderful inspiration this article is. Thanks, Prairie.

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