Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Bareback Alchemy: Great Minds One (Jeffreys on Bradbury)

Great Minds One (Jeffreys on Bradbury): Something Wicked (and Wondrous) This Way Comes

I am truly honored in being the first entry in Melissa Studdard's wonderful new blog series Great Minds. Such a marvelous concept for a blog theme. I look forward, in earnest, to reading all the next posts there at Bareback Alchemy.

Dust-jacket art by Gray Foy from the first edition  Simon & Schuster, 1962 

"Today I’d like to introduce you to “Great Minds,” a new blog post series on Bareback Alchemy. At inspired, irregular intervals, I’ll share guest posts in which writers, artists, and intellectuals make tributes to others who have influenced their work. Of course, the title is a play on the phrase, “Great minds think alike,” but I’m looking to bring you heart, soul, and inspiration too."

"I’m honored now to present the first post, an homage by R Jeffreys for Ray Bradbury. Enjoy!" 

Writer, Professor, Editor and Talk Show Host of Tiferet Talk radio, and Best Selling author of the books Six Weeks to Yehi­dah and its companion journal My Yehidah.


The essay on the incomparable Ray Bradbury has just been reprinted by the wonderful publication and community at Tiferet Journal. My sincerest thank you to Tiferet Journal publisher, Donna Baier Stein and Editor-in-Chief, Diane Bonavist for this great honor. If you are not already a subscribed member of the outstanding Tiferet Journal community, you must, my friends!

Also, a huge thank you to the marvelous, Mellissa Studdard for honoring me, by having this essay as the 1st entry in the "Great Minds" series at her excellent blog, "Bareback Alchemy."

Monday, June 22, 2009

Ray Bradbury: When The Muse Calls, Always Answer -- Immediately.

2001: Ray Bradbury gives the keynote address with stories
about his life and love of writing in "Telling the Truth,"
at The Sixth Annual Writer's Symposium by the Sea.

The graciously generous and iconic writer Ray Bradbury offered his insight on when the Muse calls one to write.

Mr. Bradbury described it this way, "When I awaken from a very vivid dream, I get right out of bed; and before I do another thing, I sit down at my typewriter and record that dream. If, I wait for even a moment and put it off -- it's gone forever! Many of my best story ideas have come from my dreams."

And, like Ray Bradbury, much of my best writing has come from the ethereal realm of my own dreams.

I am eternally grateful to Mr. Bradbury for his inspiring words, incredibly gifted writing, and for the kinship I’ve felt in our like-minded writing methodology.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Coffee with Kerouac

Many, many years ago at Harvard Square in Boston, Massachusetts, I sat at an outdoor café' drinking coffee with Jack Kerouac. Over our cups, Jack offered to me his succinct and discerning perspective into where he found the visionary words written in his poetry and books. And, on what being a writer of your own experiences truly means to your craft.

The words he wrote elevated and enlightened a generation (and the poetry form, itself) -- as only Jack Kerouac could.

During a brief moment of silence between us, I idly watched the hurried and harried crowd of tourists and Cambridge denizens meandering around us under a setting, summer’s sun.

A thought occurred to me. I averted my attention from the crowd back to our table-for-two and asked, "Jack where did you come up with all that incredible material for On the Road , and the poems you've written over the years?"

Jack sat flatly in his chair while I spoke, staring blankly down into his cup . A sudden melancholy caught me by surprise, as I thought how he appeared so much older than his actual age of forty-five. Seeing him in this weakened physical state, it felt to me as if he had been prematurely aged by the world, which he had chronicled for his generation.

I think Jack sensed my sadness. He averted his sunken and wearied eyes (which still held a dark, piercing stare) from the cup of coffee cradled in his world-worn hands and faced me. Leaning his thin and sagging shoulders forward, he began to speak, and his voice sounded as callused as his hands. But, there was an intense conviction in those words he next spoke to me that projected a vitality and strength, which belied his frail appearance.

Jack said, "Jeff, there's no need to worry about, or even to ask where the hell mine, or for that matter your writing comes from. We can sit here until we’re both bones talking s*it over that subject; it's irrelevant to the real point."

"Here's the thing; all the words, imagery, or whatever you'll ever need are here all around you now." He illustrated his point by gesturing towards the street, and at the people walking by with those leathery hands.

He continued. "Everything you have, or will ever experience, is where your writing will come from. Take what you need from that. And, stop worrying about where anyone else got their words. Think only about what you want to write and then just f**king do it, man!"

A wry smile arose on his face as that intense stare relaxed. He reached over and gently patted my much younger shoulder with one of those callused hands. And, in a commiserative tone he said. "Jeff, you worry too much about how you're going write, be concerned with only what you're already writing. Always ask yourself this question when you sit down to write: am I writing about what I've experienced, or am I just acting like an old, tired mockingbird? Which kind of writer are you gonna be, kiddo?”

Grinning widely now Jack said, “People will come along, read your stuff and then make up their own minds whether they care about it, or not. Just, make sure that you tell 'em what this old world showed you, the way you saw it and you’ll be just fine."

Jack cheerfully raised his nearly empty cup in a celebratory toast, as he sardonically concluded, "And to hell with them all my young friend if they don’t dig your groove!"

And, ever since that day of coffee and conversation with Kerouac, long away from now, I've tried to be the writer he so generously instructed me to be.

I believe that hearing Jack Kerouac's unwavering conviction in what your own truth and words are, has not only helped me to find my own true writer's voice, but made me a better man for it in the process.

My heartfelt gratitude goes out to you, Jack, on whatever celestial road you're now traveling!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Stephen Coonts: My Five-by-Five, Daily Writing Ritual.

I want to impart to you an invaluable writing lesson, which many years ago my friend, the NY Times best selling author, Stephen Coonts offered to me.

Mr. Coonts calls it: My five-by-five, daily writing ritual. Steve writes (as I now do) for five concurrent hours, on five consecutive days, during each weekday.

For me, this personal writing contract has become an integral part of my work day and the terms are non-negotiable. All of my friends, family, business associates, etc. know this as fact. They are fully aware that I will not deviate from this routine; except for an emergency, which requires my immediate attention.

As I write full time, those amount of hours spent per day writing may not be doable for the non-professional writer. But, in moderation this discipline to your writing is still applicable, and well within reasonable limits for anyone to accomplish.

My modification on Mr. Coont's advice on writing is that even though you most, likely cannot write for five hours in any given day, do set aside at least one hour (at the same time of day/eve), five days a week.

Before you sign your own personal writing contract, be sure to let everyone you know that this is your writing time. And, that you are not to be disturbed for any reason; excepting of course as in my case as well, an immediate emergency. Believe me, they'll survive without you for ONE hour a day.

And, I trust with that personal commitment to your writing and public affirmation to others, you will be more motivated and dedicated to write. Also, don’t be surprised when you find that you have produced and completed much, more work than you have ever done before.

Good luck to you all in your own writing!

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Three Simple Steps to Writing, More:

1) Write what you would want to read.

First, ask yourself this question. "Would I want to read this?" I know this sounds simplistic, but if you aren't writing about a subject that you care passionately about, there's a good chance that your reader will recognize that fact and not be very interested in reading it either.

2) Write with clarity.

If you aren't familiar with a certain location, culture, time period, etc. that you intend to write about, then do research on it first and write it later.

With that new-found knowledge at-hand, your writing will translate to your reader with more clarity.

3) Write, write and then write some more.

From my experience in working with many writers, what appears to be the biggest impediment for them is they just can't seem to find the time to finish what they have started.

Even, if it's only for one hour every day, find the time to write and then do so! The more you write, the better you will be at it and the more work you'll actually complete.

Any craftsman/craftswoman improves with the act of doing what it is they want to do best. And, so too will you in the craft of writing - simply by following these three simple steps to writing, more.

Keep Writing!