Ray Bradbury, a man of science, imagination, and other worldly creativity, departed this dimension on June 6th, 2012. Little more than a week since his death, many have written words of thanks and appreciation to applaud Bradbury for the limitlessness of his imagination and the power of his words.
Ray Bradbury was a teacher on the page as well as a mentor in life. Threading back through my memories, I can pin point a priceless interaction I had with the writer while I was attending film school. The year was 1999 and I was a hungry screenwriting student at a small Los Angeles film school. My screenwriting mentor introduced me to Mr. Bradbury at an on-campus event. I recall focusing on Bradbury’s hair–it was thick like a horse’s and colorless white–as he offered me surprisingly kind words of encouragement on the writing process. I was overwhelmed to be in the presence of such a famous writer, but his words gave me courage.
The brief encounter and his book “Zen in the Art of Writing” gave me the bravery to ask the man if I could take a stab at writing an adaptation of one of his short stories for a video assignment for my school. So blinded by optimism and hope, I didn’t even attempt any kind of promise of financial enticement. But then how could I? I was without any income and was living off a school loan that barely covered my rent, let alone a meager food allowance. I looked past my own lack of experience, crossed my fingers, and took the huge leap of faith.
Miraculously, Bradbury agreed to read my pages and think over my request. I wrote a draft. The director sent the pages along with the obligatory contract my film school required for usage of any original work.
In the interim, I chewed my nail-beds clean. I paced. I may have even drank a bottle of cheap wine to take the edge off.
Soon after, Mr. Bradbury’s responded.
“I’m sorry,” Mr. Bradbury said. “I just can’t get past giving up my usage rights of my story. ‘World wide rights–on this planet and beyond?‘ It’s all a bit much. I’m going to have to decline.”
Though I was disappointed, I agreed with Bradbury’s decision. The small print of my film school’s contract really did request he hand over world-wide usage rights of his early story–albeit in video form–on this planet and beyond, for all perpetuity. Usage of a story for a minor video project is one thing, but surrendering over every dimension a beloved could exist in? Unfathomable, especially for a writer dedicated to the contemplation of time and unending space.
“We can learn from every man or woman or child around us when, touched and moved, they tell of something they loved or hated this day, yesterday, or some other day long past. At a given moment, the fuse, after sputtering wetly, flares, and the fireworks begin.”–Ray Bradbury
For some 70 years, Bradbury wrote every day. This simple man with thick glasses was a mythic story teller who saw beyond hollow stainless steel robots and bigger than life superhero characters. He got past the doubt and fear and got down to telling great stories of what ifs and relationships—human or otherwise–turned upside down. Ray Bradbury was a writer who knew the importance of fearlessness, curiosity, and gusto. He was a voice of encouragement* and hope for the creative process of writers on this planet and beyond. Regardless of how tired, sore, or under the weather Bradbury felt, the man got to work and wrote.
Ray Bradbury was a great writer and a powerful story teller who has inspired many creative individuals to take a fearless journey into the unknown. Ray Bradbury’s work and his ethic reminds me that the only way to find myself and achieve a connection to the universal energies, I must take my writer’s seat and get writing.
So thank you, Mr. Bradbury. You continue to live on in me and in the constellation of creativity around all of us.
“I have not so much thought my way through life as done things and found what it was and who I was after the doing…”–Ray Bradbury
*If you are a writer and have never read Bradbury’s Zen in the Art of Writing, you must. Immediately.