Where did Ray Bradbury find his inspiration?
December 28, 2014
THESE ARE THE QUESTIONS that plague us.
At least they haunt me.
Where does inspiration come from?
When does it arrive?
And, more importantly, do we ever recognize it when inspiration slaps us upside the head and says, “Here I am. This is the idea you’ve been waiting for. Grab it and go for broke. Life’s never gonna be the same again.”
There are occasions when inspiration strikes you right between the eyes like a bolt of lightning. It’s never happened to me. I’m sure it’s happened to others.
Most times, however, it whispers in your ear, and you ignore it, forget it, and shove it out of your mind until years later when you stumble once again across the subtle little message that inspiration left behind for you to discover.
It’s never too late.
More than thirty years ago, a school teacher, William Stanhope, sent out letters to several noted personalities and asked them to respond to two questions.
Describe the biggest obstacle they had ever faced. It could be big or small. It didn’t matter.
And provide the story of what was done to overcome that obstacle.
The response from Ray Bradbury is legendary.
He wrote: most important decision i ever made came at age 9 … i was collecting BUCK ROGERS comic strips, 1929, when my 5th grade classmates made fun of me. I tore up the strips. A week later, I broke into tears. Why was a crying? I wondered. Who die? Me, was the answer. I have torn up the future. What to do about it? Start collecting BUCK ROGERS again. Fall in love with the future. I did just that. And after that never listened to one damnfool idiot classmate who doubted me! What did I learn? To be myself and never let others, prejudiced, interfere with my life. Kids, do the same. Be your own self. LOVE what YOU love.
It didn’t seem much like inspiration when the ridicule happened. It felt like humiliation. It seemed like the end of the world.
It wasn’t. It was the beginning of new worlds as only Ray Bradbury could build them. He may have still been thinking about his love for the future and the influence of Buck Rogers when he wrote the story that framed his most popular work: Fahrenheit 451.
This is how it got done. In a letter to Shawna Thorup, he wrote: I needed an office and no money for one. Then one day I was wandering around U.C.LA and I heard typing down below in the basement of the library. I discovered there was a typing room where you could rent a typewriter for ten cents a half hour. I moved into the typing room along with a bunch of students and my bag of dimes, which totaled $9.80, which I spent and created the 25,000 word version of “The Fireman” in nine days. How could I have written so many words so quickly? It was because of the library. All of my friends, all of my loved ones, were on the shelves above and shouted, yelled and shrieked at me to be creative. So I ran up and down the stairs, finding books and quotes to put in my “Fireman” novella. You can imagine how exciting it is to do a book about book burning the very presence of the hundreds of my beloveds on the shelves. It was the perfect way to be creative; that’s what the library does.”
Times were hard.
And he was broke.
But Ray Bradbury was following his own advice. He was loving what he loved and doing what he loved to do.