Ghost against Ghost

"The fact is simple enough. Through a lifetime, by ingesting food and water, we build cells, we grow, we become larger and more substantial. That which was not, is. The process is undetectable. It can be viewed only at intervals along the way. We know it is happening, but we don't know quite how or why.

"Similarly, in a lifetime, we stuff ourselves with sounds, sights, smells, tastes and textures of people, animals, landscapes, events, large and small. We stuff ourselves with these impressions and experiences and our reactions to them. Into our subconscious goes not only factual data but reactive data, our movement toward or away from the sensed events.

"These are the stuffs, the foods, on which the Muse grows. This is the storehouse, the file, to which we must return every waking hour to check reality against memory, and in sleep to check memory against memory, which means ghost against ghost, in order to exorcise them, if necessary.

"What is the subconscious to every other man, in its creative aspect becomes, for writers, the Muse. They are two names for one thing. But no matter what we call it, here is the core of the individual we pretend to extol, to whom we build shrines and hold lip services in our democratic society. For it is in the totality of experience reckoned with, filed and forgotten, that each man is truly different from all others in the world."


"Read poetry every day of your life. Poetry is good because it flexes muscles you don't use often enough. Poetry expands the senses and keeps them in prime condition. It keeps you aware of your nose, your eye, your ear, your tongue, your hand. And, above all, poetry is compacted metaphor or simile. Such metaphors, like Japanese paper flowers, may expand outward into gigantic shapes. Ideas lie everywhere through the poetry books, yet how rarely have I heard short-story teachers recommending them for browsing... 

"What poetry? Any poetry that makes your hair stand up along your arms. Don't force yourself too hard. Take it easy. Over the years you may catch up to, move even with, and pass T.S. Eliot on your way to other pastures. You say you don't understand Dylan Thomas? Yes, but your ganglion does, and your secret wits, and all your unborn children. Read him, as you read a horse with your eyes, set free and charging over and endless green meadow on a windy day."

-- Ray Bradbury, "How to Keep and Feed the Muse," from Zen in the Art of Writing


Bradbury, R. (1990). Zen in the art of writing. Santa Barbara, Calif: Joshua Odell Editions. (PDF, library)