How did Ray Bradbury write a classic bestseller for less than $10?

fahrenheit 451


I ran across Ray Bradbury’s commencement address at Cal Tech in 2000.

Every writer should read it.

No really.

Here’s what he said about how Fahrenheit 451 came to be:

See, I didn’t go to school, but I went to the library. And I’ve stayed there for the last 50 years or so. When I was in my 40s, I had no money for an office. I was wandering around UCLA one day, 35 years ago, and I heard typing down below-in the basement of the library. And I went down to see what was going on. I found there was a typing room down there. And for 10 cents for a half an hour, I could rent a typewriter. I said, “My God. This is great! I don’t have an office. I’ll move in here with a bunch of students. And I’ll write!” So, I got a bag full of dimes, and in the next nine days-I spent $9.80-and I wrote Fahrenheit 451.

Okay, we could factor in inflation since 1965, or we could recognize that today most of us don’t even have to rent a typewriter.

We can save the $9.80 it took Ray Bradbury to compose a book thousands of people read every year.

By the way, if he was paying $.10 per half-hour for the rental of the typewriter, and he spent $9.80, that computes to forty-nine hours. Forty-nine hours in nine days in the basement of the library. A little more than five hours a day of writing.

Not much time for re-writing either.

Unless he typed 150 words per minute. Only Russell Blake does that these days.

Seriously, I have read Fahrenheit 451 a few dozen times, and I figure it comes in around 65,000 words.  Since Bradbury points out later in the commencement address that he supplemented the book with another 25,000 words or so later, then we can deduce that his work product for those nine days in the basement of the public library was 40,000 words or so. The math is 816 words per hour.

Makes perfect sense to me.

Hole up for  two weeks and write your brains out.

Who knows?  You might write something people will be talking about forty years from now.


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