A Life Experiment with Huge Impact
I like to experiment with writing routines. One of the mentors I am learning from is Ray Bradbury.
The ‘Bradbury Trio’ in Ray Bradbury’s own words:
“I’ll give you a programme to follow every night. Very simple programme. For the next thousand nights, before you go to bed every night, read one short story. That will take you ten minutes, fifteen minutes. Okay? Then read one poem a night from the vast history of poetry. Stay away from most modern poems. It’s crap. It’s not poetry. Now, if you want to kid yourself and write lines that look like poems, go ahead and do it, but you’ll go nowhere. But read the great poets. Go back and read Shakespeare, read Alexander Pope, read Robert Frost. But one poem a night, one short story a night, one essay a night, for the next 1,000 nights.”
There is a great explanation of this idea at Benjamin’s Blog. Benjamin has an inspiring video of Bradbury on this post as well you want to check out. I have watched it several times.
This year, I decided to follow this program. Several writers I know participate in this structure for a prescribed period. 1000 nights is over 2.7 years! Many I know follow it for a month.
When I began the system, I couldn’t decide on which essays to read first or what constituted an essay. Then came back to writing books I had not read since college including “The Rules of Writing Practice” Natalie Goldberg Wild Mind. I also read essays by Bradbury in Zen in the Art of Writing.
Some great selections:
Flash Fiction: 1000 Cranes Melissa McCracken
Short Story: “Findings and Impressions” by Stellar Kim Best American Short Stories (BASS) 2007
Poem: “Knives” by Michael Stephens
Poem: “The Chairs That No One Sits In” Billy Collins
The idea of gathering with a group of people with these three readings as a topic excites me too!
Each type of writing inspires me in a different way. The topic, phrase or structure can inspire my writing.
I recently read Karen Russell’s Orange World. Yesterday, I listened to her talk about writing it and it gave me a new perspective on her process and how she comes to her ideas.
I have also been reading short stories, poems, and essays from Tin House’s Last Issue has been wonderful.
How does this practice resonate with you? What are your thoughts about it? Please share in the comments. Do you have short stories you come back to over and over?