The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Thursday, June 07, 2012

R.I. P. Ray Bradbury

He was the first great writer who ever encouraged me to believe in myself. Met him several times--he guested on my radio show, and at a symposium I taught at U.C.L.A. Was never anything but a gentleman and an inspiration. The last time I saw him I was asked to give a tribute for (I think) his 85th birthday at Universal Sheraton. I spoke of his kindness in reading two of my stories and responding with encouragement, of sitting at dinner with him and Larry Niven, of him believing that I had my best writing days ahead of me. I cried. He was in his wheelchair, suffering from stroke, and we hugged. He wrote me one last time, thanking me for my tribute, saying: "some of your tears are my own."
What a wonderful spirit. I loved him.

Bradbury's Zen

Bradbury wrote a wonderful, short book called "Zen and the Art of Writing" which touches on the state of mind and action that he considered his own path. Considering that he was one of the world's greatest in his chosen discipline, it behooves one to study what he said. If you want to go deeper, compare what he said to others who have achieved mastery, and pay very close attention to anything they say in common.

The most basic rule: you must work. Chop wood, carry water. "A story a week, or a story every other week." Writers: doing short stories is vastly more productive than novels for the unpublished writer.

The same principle applies to other disciplines as well, however. Martial arts or yoga? Train every day. Intellectual disciplines? Every day. Spiritual disciplines? Every day. Preparing oneself for love and a relationship? Daily introspection and action.

Every damned day. When you do this, you enter the flow of your life. Nothing special, just another day of immersion in your path. Only have your Diamond Hour? Fine. Meditate for fifteen minutes, then "flow-write" for forty five. On alternate days, meditate for fifteen and edit for forty five.

Or: read, study, plan, prioritize, exercise...whatever the most important aspect of your life, emphasize it for sixty minutes a day, and you can crush any problem in the world. Then...emphasize the next problem, and the rotation. Mastering your life.

Ray Bradbury, through his writings and presence, was one of the great mentors of my life. His path has never failed me. Nor will it fail you.


Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Finished the script

Over the last three months, I've sacrificed much of my other work to concentrate on my script, and yesterday I sent it off. Whatever remains to be done, and whatever happens next, I have learned new and deeper things about the process of writing, and I'll treasure the experience.

I win.

No matter what happens. And this ties into that equation I've spoken of before:

(Clear goals) X (Faith) X (Constant Action) X (Attitude of Gratitude) = Optimal performance and results.

Now...nothing can GUARANTEE your success in the external world. Anyone who promises that is just lying. But having spent my entire life studying the science of personal achievement, I can say honestly that these four aspects are a perfectly elegant and effective checklist.

1) Clear Goals. I knew I wanted to write the best script I could, channeling current frustrations into the process. It was to be as honest and entertaining as I could make it, but also speak to a truth underlying the "facts" of the situation. And it was to hold all the love I could pour into it.

2) Faith. I had to believe that I could do it. The question of whether someone else would appreciate it, buy it, or produce it was totally separate. In an odd way, I didn't care. This was pretty pure art. And I believed that if I gave it everything I had, I could create something that would make me proud. As the process continued, and I made contact with a gentleman who could actually make it happen, I had to have faith that he would interact with me honestly and fairly.

3) Constant Action. Every day, I worked on it one way or another. Flying cross-country? Carry a stack of 3x5 cards bound with a rubber band. Work on scene selections. Carry a paper printout and re-read and edit. Carry it on my iPad and read a PDF at odd moments. Think about it before I go to sleep. I got my "Diamond Hour" every day. Every single day.

4) Attitude of Gratitude. I realized that i could NOT do my best work and carry my pain with me. But wanted to use the pain to motivate me. So I had to strive to resolve the duality of pain and pleasure, hope and regret into a single energy flow. Pure sensation. Pure sense of "I am alive, and life is sensation and awareness. Some of that is called 'pain'. I embrace the entire experience. Thank you, God, for giving me another opportunity to find out who I am."

It is returning individual colors of the spectrum to the prism of perception to harvest pure white light. THAT is the energy that will raise me to the best I can be.

Will the script be purchased? Produced? Successful? I cannot effect any of that, very much. But I can, and did, do the best I could. And learned hugely from the process. And will take that learning into whatever project is next.

And am grateful for my life.

And wow...just maybe...

Monday, June 04, 2012

Art and Aging

On Art and Aging

" . . . my seventieth year, nothing I drew was of particular note.
At the age of seventy-three I could somewhat understand the structure of animals,On On
insects and fish, and the vital nature of plants and trees. Thus, at eighty my art will have 
greatly improved, at ninety will have attained real depth, and at one hundred will be divinely
inspired. At one hundred and ten my every dot and every stroke will come to life . . ."

Katsushika Hokusai
Now that's the way to plan graceful aging! Remember the core success strategy:
Clear Goals (times) Faith (times) Constant Action (times) an Attitude of Gratitude (equals) positive result. Hokusai seems to have it all covered. What is your weak link?
Jason makes his movie debut! Well...not quite. Tananarive shot a trailer for our new zombie novel "Devil's Wake", due next month, utilizing Jason as the young man caught in a dreadful situation...