Ray Bradbury Writing Quotes

Ray Bradbury is credited with bringing modern science fiction into the literary mainstream. His work has influenced famous authors such as Neil Gaiman and R.L Stine and film-makers like Steven Spielberg.

In this article, we explore his insights and advice on writing through quotes from several of his interviews and his excellent book on writing, Zen in the Art of Writing: Essays on Creativity. If you want to become a better writer or understand the life of a writer, Zen in the Art of Writing is a must read.

Some of the topics covered include:

  • His thoughts on making money through writing
  • What you need to do to become a better writer
  • What your brain is telling you when you get writer’s block
  • His writing process and routine

If you want to learn more about Ray Bradbury, check out his quick biography.

Quotes on Why Writers Write

1. What you’re all looking for but maybe you don’t know it. What you are looking for in your writing and your life is for one person to come up to you and say I love you because of what you do. – An Evening with Ray Bradbury, 2001

2. What is the greatest reward a writer can have? Isn’t it that day when someone rushes up to you, his face bursting with honesty, his eyes afire with admiration and cries, “That new story of yours was fine, really wonderful! –Zen in the Art of Writing, 1990

3. Writers write because of a need to be loved. I suppose that’s greedy, isn’t it? – Playboy Interview, 1996

4. What would happen is that the world would catch up with and try to sicken you. If you did not write every day, the poisons would accumulate and you would begin to die, or act crazy, or both. You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you. –Zen in the Art of Writing, 1990

5. Another reason I became a writer was to escape the hopelessness and despair of the real world and enter the world of hope I could create with my imagination. – Playboy Interview, 1996

6. No to write, for many of us, is to die. –Zen in the Art of Writing, 1990

7. I had decided to be a magician well before I decided to be a writer. I was the little boy who would get up on-stage and do magic wearing a fake moustache, which would fall off during the performance. I’m still trying to perform those tricks. Now I do it with writing. – Playboy Interview, 1996

8. And what, you ask, does writing teach us? First and foremost, it reminds us that we are alive and that it is a gift and a privilege, not a right. –Zen in the Art of Writing, 1990

9. Writing has helped me in other ways. When I started writing seriously, I made the major discovery of my life – that I am right and everybody else is wrong if they disagree with me. – Playboy Interview, 1996

10. I have learned, on my journeys, that if I let a day go by without writing, I grow uneasy. Two days and I am in tremor. Three and I suspect lunacy. Four and I might as well be a hog, suffering the flux in a wallow. –Zen in the Art of Writing, 1990

Quotes on Doing What You Love

11. Fall in love and stay in love. Do what you love, don’t do anything else. – Public Libraries Interview, 2013

12. I want your loves to be multiple. I don’t want you to be a snob about anything. Anything you love, you do it. It’s got to be with a great sense of fun. – An Evening with Ray Bradbury, 2001

13. Writing is not a serious business, it’s a joy and a celebration, you should be having fun at it…it’s not work. If it’s work, stop and do something else. – An Evening with Ray Bradbury, 2001

14. I don’t write things to benefit the world, if it happens that they do swell, I didn’t set out to do that. I set out to have a hell of a lot of fun. – An Evening with Ray Bradbury, 2001

15. I don’t write for anyone, I just write for myself. I just write the play, and I hand it over to you, and then you take it from me. I didn’t write it for you, I wrote it for myself. – Steppenwolf Interview

16. I’ve never worked a day in my life. The joy of writing has propelled me from day to day and year to year. I want you to envy me, my joy. Get out of here tonight and say: “Am I being joyful?” – An Evening with Ray Bradbury, 2001

17. I don’t understand writers who have to work at it. I like to play. I’m interested in having fun with ideas, throwing them up in the air like confetti and then running under them. If I had to work at it I would give it up. I don’t like working. – The Paris Review Interview, 2010

18. All I can do is teach people to fall in love. My advice to them is, do what you love and love what you do. Then you become free of all laws and all gravity. –Time.com Interview, 2010

19. Every time you write for anyone, regardless of who they are, no matter how right the cause you may believe in, you lie. Steinbeck is one of the few writers out of the thirties who’s still read, because he didn’t write for causes at all. He wrote human stories that happened to represent causes indirectly. – The Paris Review Interview, 2010

20. I’ve loved writing since I was twelve. It’s never changed. So, as long as I’ve gone on loving, and writing every day for 70 years, you stay young, because you’re doing the thing that you love. – Steppenwolf Interview

21. I knew I was going into one of the arts: I was drawing, acting, and writing. – The Paris Review Interview, 2010

22. By the time many people are fourteen or fifteen, they have been divested of their loves, their ancient and intuitive tastes, one by one, until when they reach maturity there is no fun left, no zest, no gusto, no flavor.  –Zen in the Art of Writing, 1990

23. When you start out life as a writer, you hate that job, but now that I’m older it’s turned into a wonderful game, and I love the challenge just as much as writing the original, because it’s a challenge. –Zen in the Art of Writing, 1990

Quotes on Making Money by Writing and Writing for Money

24. I turned down $200,000 worth of screenplays because I knew if I took the money, it would destroy me. I wouldn’t do a good job, I would get a bad reputation and so what’s the use of money? – An Evening with Ray Bradbury, 2001

25. If there are any of you that have gone into writing to make money, forget it, it doesn’t work that way. – An Evening with Ray Bradbury, 2001

26. My wife and I were 37 years old before we had enough money to buy a car. – An Evening with Ray Bradbury, 2001

27. My wife took a vow of poverty to marry me. – An Evening with Ray Bradbury, 2001

28. They offered the usual amount for a screenplay like that, a hundred thousand dollars, but you cannot do things for money in this world. I don’t care how much they offer you, and I don’t care how poor you are. – The Paris Review Interview, 2010

29. There’s only one excuse ever to take money under those circumstances: If someone in your family is horribly ill and the doctor bills are piled up so high that you’re all going to be destroyed. Then I’d say, Go on and take the job. Go do War and Peace and do a lousy job. And be sorry later. – The Paris Review Interview, 2010

30. Don’t write for money. Write because you love to do something. If you write for money, you won’t write anything worth reading. – Public Libraries Interview, 2013

31. Even when I was poor, I didn’t do that [writing for money]. As a result, my stories are still around. The Martian Chronicles were all written for $40 apiece. But love paid off, didn’t it? – Public Libraries Interview, 2013

Quotes on Authenticity and Self-Discovery

32. When a man talks from his heart, in his moment of truth, he speaks poetry. –Zen in the Art of Writing, 1990

33. You have been writing self-consciously, intellectually for too long, the deep stuff, your true self hasn’t had a chance to come up. You’ve been so busy thinking commercially what will sell, what will I do, instead of saying who am I? How do I discover me? – An Evening with Ray Bradbury, 2001

34. 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. –Zen in the Art of Writing, 1990

35. You don’t know what is in you until you test it. – An Evening with Ray Bradbury, 2001

36. There are two arts: number one, getting a thing done; and then, the second great art is learning how to cut it so you don’t kill it or hurt it in any way. –Zen in the Art of Writing, 1990

37. What a great thing to learn: Don’t listen to anyone else, and always go your own way. – Playboy Interview, 1996

Quotes on Science Fiction Writing

38. In science fiction, we dream. In order to colonize in space, to rebuild our cities, which are so far out of whack, to tackle any number of problems, we must imagine the future, including the new technologies that are required. – Playboy Interview, 1996

39. Science fiction is any idea that occurs in the head and doesn’t exist yet, but soon will, and will change everything for everybody, and nothing will ever be the same again. – The Paris Review Interview, 2010

40. As soon as you have an idea that changes some small part of the world you are writing science fiction. It is always the art of the possible, never the impossible. – The Paris Review Interview, 2010

41. The way to teach in this world is to pretend you’re not teaching. Science fiction offers the chance to pretend to look the other way while teaching. – Playboy Interview, 1996

42. Science fiction is also a great way to pretend you are writing about the future when in reality you are attacking the recent past and the present. You can criticize communists, racists, fascists or any other clear and present danger, and they can’t imagine you are writing about them. – Playboy Interview, 1996

43. Science fiction is the fiction of ideas. – The Paris Review Interview, 2010

44. Science fiction pretends to look into the future but it’s really looking at a reflection of what is already in front of us. – The Paris Review Interview, 2010

Quotes on Reading

45. Young children have to be taught how to read and write. If children went into the first grade knowing how to read and write, we’d be set for the future, wouldn’t we? – The Paris Review Interview, 2010

46. It’s not going to do any good to land on Mars if we’re stupid. And I want to save the future generation, I want to teach them to read when they’re 5 and 6 and 7 years old. If we don’t do that, we lose them forever. – NPR Interview, 2012

47. We read because we are curious and we want to be educated to people and to things. – An Evening with Ray Bradbury, 2001

48. My parents read the comics to me, and I fell in love with comic strips. I’ve collected them all of my life. – Public Libraries Interview, 2013

49. I’ve learned a lot from reading comics as a child. – Public Libraries Interview, 2013

50. I’ve always believed that you should do very little reading in your own field once you’re into it. But at the start it’s good to know what everyone’s doing. – The Paris Review Interview, 2010

51. I prefer not to read the younger writers in the field. Quite often you can be depressed by discovering they’ve happened onto an idea you yourself are working on. What you want is simply to get on with your own work. – The Paris Review Interview, 2010

Quotes on Learning, the Library and Self-education

52. I’m completely library educated. I’ve never been to college. – The Paris Review Interview, 2010

53. You can’t learn to write in college. It’s a very bad place for writers because the teachers always think they know more than you do -and they don’t. They have prejudices. – The Paris Review Interview, 2010

54. The library, on the other hand, has no biases. The information is all there for you to interpret. You don’t have someone telling you what to think. You discover it for yourself. – The Paris Review Interview, 2010

55. I didn’t go to college, but when I graduated from high school I went down to the local library and I spent ten years there, two or three days a week, and I got a better education than most people get from universities. So I graduated from the library when I was twenty-eight years old. – Public Libraries Interview, 2013

56. With the library, it’s like catnip, I suppose: you begin to run in circles because there’s so much to look at and read. And it’s far more fun than going to school, simply because you make up your own list and you don’t have to listen to anyone. – The Paris Review Interview, 2010

57. I took a writing course in summer school in 1939, when I was in high school. But it didn’t work. The secret of writing was, to go and live in the library two or four days a week for ten years. –Time.com Interview, 2010

58. There’s no use going to a university if you don’t live at the library. – Public Libraries Interview, 2013

59. Live in the library, for Christ’s sake. Don’t live on your goddamn computer and the internet and all that crap. Go to the library. – An Evening with Ray Bradbury, 2001

Quotes on Productivity

60. My passions drive me to the typewriter every day of my life, and they have driven me there since I was twelve. So I never have to worry about schedules. Some new thing is always exploding in me, and it schedules me, I don’t schedule it. It says: Get to the typewriter right now and finish this. – The Paris Review Interview, 2010

61. On my seventieth birthday, when I reflected that so many of my friends were dead or dying, it hit me that it was high time I got more work done. Ever since that time, I have done the active, smart thing by increasing my productivity. – Playboy Interview, 1996

62. Action is hope. At the end of each day, when you’ve done your work, you lie there and think, Well, I’ll be damned, I did this today. It doesn’t matter how good it is, or how bad -you did it. At the end of the week you’ll have a certain amount of accumulation. At the end of a year, you look back and say, I’ll be damned, it’s been a good year. – The Paris Review Interview, 2010

63. Work is the only answer. I have three rules to live by. One, get your work done. If that doesn’t work, shut up and drink your gin. And when all else fails, run like hell! – The Paris Review Interview, 2010

64. The more I did, the more I wanted to do. –Zen in the Art of Writing, 1990

65. I don’t believe in optimism. I believe in optimal behavior. That’s a different thing. If you behave every day of your life to the top of your genetics, what can you do? Test it. Find out…You must live life at the top of your voice! At the top of your lungs shout and listen to the echoes. – The Paris Review Interview, 2010

66. We must take arms each and every day, perhaps knowing that the battle cannot be entirely won, but fight we must, if only a gentle bout. The smallest effort to win means, at the end of each day, a sort of victory. –Zen in the Art of Writing, 1990

Quotes on How to Become a Great Writer

67. The best hygiene for beginning writers or intermediate writers is to write a hell of a lot of short stories. If you can write one short story a week -it doesn’t matter what the quality is to start, but at least you’re practicing, and at the end of the year you have 52 short stories, and I defy you to write 52 bad ones. – An Evening with Ray Bradbury, 2001

68. I wrote every day of every week of every month, for every year. And in ten years, I became a writer. –Time.com Interview, 2010

69. I started writing at 12 but was 22 before writing first decent short story…I was doing everything wrong to start with. – An Evening with Ray Bradbury, 2001

70. For ten years I wrote at least one short story a week, somehow guessing that a day would finally come when I truly got out of the way and let it happen. –Zen in the Art of Writing, 1990

71. Ten years of doing everything wrong suddenly became the right idea, the right scene, the right characters, the right day, the right creative time. –Zen in the Art of Writing, 1990

72. Have you trained well enough so you can say what you want to say without getting hamstrung? Have you written enough so that you are relaxed and can allow the truth to get out without being ruined by self-conscious posturings or changed by a desire to become rich? –Zen in the Art of Writing, 1990

73. I want to get you writing more short stories and then you’ll be in training and you’ll learn to compact things, you’ll learn to look for ideas and yet the psychological thing here is that every week you’ll be happy, at the end of the week you’ll have done something. – An Evening with Ray Bradbury, 2001

74. I was imitating, I had so many heroes I wanted to be like. – An Evening with Ray Bradbury, 2001

75. Quantity gives experience. From experience alone can quality come. –Zen in the Art of Writing, 1990

76. The artist must work so hard, so long, that a brain develops and lives, all of itself, in his fingers. –Zen in the Art of Writing, 1990

77. Remember that pianist who said that if he did not practice every day he would know, if he did not practice for two days, the critics would know, after three days, his audience would know. –Zen in the Art of Writing, 1990

Quotes on Creativity and Getting Ideas

78. Any experience that touches you, in any particular way, is good. It can be a horrible experience. I saw a car crash when I was 15 here in Los Angeles and five people died as a result of it… I was terrified of automobiles for a long time after that but I turned it into a short story called “The Crowd” six or seven years later. – NPR Interview, 2012

79. By living well, by observing as you live, by reading well and observing as you read, you have fed Your Most Original Self. –Zen in the Art of Writing, 1990

80. It’s lack that gives us inspiration. It’s not fullness. Not ever having driven, I can write better about automobiles than the people who drive them. – NPR Interview, 2012

81. As soon as things get difficult, I walk away. That’s the great secret of creativity. You treat ideas like cats: you make them follow you. –Zen in the Art of Writing, 1990

82. The ideas will follow me. When they’re off-guard, and ready to be born, I’ll turn around and grab them. –Zen in the Art of Writing, 1990

83. I came on the old and best ways of writing through ignorance and experiment and was startled when truths leaped out of brushes like quail before gunshot. –Zen in the Art of Writing, 1990

84. I hope always to stay alert, to educate myself as best I can. But, lacking this, in future I will relaxedly turn back to my secret mind to see what it has observed when I thought I was sitting this one out. We never sit anything out. –Zen in the Art of Writing, 1990

85. I just go with my subconscious. If it wants to do a poem, I do a poem, and if it wants to do a play, I do a play. So I’m not in charge, I’m not in control. – Public Libraries Interview, 2013

86. We are cups, constantly and quietly being filled. The trick is, knowing how to tip ourselves over and let the beautiful stuff out. –Zen in the Art of Writing, 1990

87. I just automatically generate ideas now. But in the old days I knew I had to dredge my subconscious, and the nouns did this. – The Paris Review Interview, 2010

88. I’m never going to go to Mars but I’ve helped inspire…the people who built the rockets and sent our photographic equipment off to Mars. So it’s always a lack that causes you to write that type of story. – NPR Interview, 2012

89. Ideas excite me, and as soon as I get excited, the adrenaline gets going and the next thing I know I’m borrowing energy from the ideas themselves. – The Paris Review Interview, 2010

90. I wake up in the morning and I lie in bed, and it’s the time I call “the theater of morning.” All these thoughts run around in my head, between my ears when I’m waking up. It’s not a dream state, but it’s not completely awake either. So all these metaphors run around and then I pick one and I get out of bed and I do it. – Public Libraries Interview, 2013

91. As soon as I get an idea, I write a short story, or I start a novel, or I do a poem. So I have no need for a notebook. – The Paris Review Interview, 2010

92. I do keep files of ideas and stories that didn’t quite work a year ago, five years ago, ten years ago. I come back to them later and I look through the titles. It’s like a father bird coming with a worm. You look down at all these hungry little beaks -all these stories waiting to be finished -and you say to them, Which of you needs to be fed? Which of you needs to be finished today? – The Paris Review Interview, 2010

93. Make a list of 10 things you love madly and write about them, make a list of 10 things you hate and kill them. – An Evening with Ray Bradbury, 2001

94. Every so often, late at night, I come downstairs, open one of my books, read a paragraph and say, My God. I sit there and cry because I feel that I’m not responsible for any of this. It’s from God… I’ll be damned where any of it came from. I’ve been fortunate. – The Paris Review Interview, 2010

95. All my books have been surprises, I’ve never known where the hell I’m going. – An Evening with Ray Bradbury, 2001

Quotes on Dealing with Writer’s Block

96. What if you have a blockage and you don’t know what to do about it? Well, it’s obvious you’re doing the wrong thing, aren’t you? – An Evening with Ray Bradbury, 2001

97. You are in the middle of something you go blank and your mind says: “No, that’s it.” You’re being warned, aren’t you? Your subconscious is saying “I don’t like you anymore. You’re writing about things I don’t give a damn for”– An Evening with Ray Bradbury, 2001

98. If you’ve got a writer’s block, you can cure it this evening by stopping whatever you’re writing and doing something else. You picked the wrong subject. – An Evening with Ray Bradbury, 2001

Quotes on Ray Bradbury Writing Philosophy

99. I was fearful of novels, I recognized the danger of spending a year on something that may not be very good. – An Evening with Ray Bradbury, 2001

100. I waited until I was 30 before I wrote my first novel and that was Fahrenheit 451. – An Evening with Ray Bradbury, 2001

101. For one thing, kids love me because I write stories that tell them about their capacity for evil. I’m one of the few writers who lets you cleanse yourself that way. – Playboy Interview, 1996

102. Facts are not interesting to me. I write prose poetry. I take off and fly. Journalism keeps you planted in the earth.
 –Time.com Interview, 2010

103. You’ve got to be careful you don’t start lecturing people. – The Paris Review Interview, 2010

Quotes on Ray Bradbury’s Writing Environment and Routine

104. I can work anywhere. I wrote in bedrooms and living rooms when I was growing up with my parents and my brother in a small house in Los Angeles. I worked on my typewriter in the living room, with the radio and my mother and dad and brother all talking at the same time. – The Paris Review Interview, 2010

105. When I wanted to write Fahrenheit 451, I went up to UCLA and found a basement typing room where, if you inserted ten cents into the typewriter, you could buy thirty minutes of typing time. – The Paris Review Interview, 2010

106. I write all the time. – The Paris Review Interview, 2010

107. I always have taken naps. That way, I have two mornings! – The Paris Review Interview, 2010

Quotes on Ray Bradbury’s Writing Process

108. I type my first draft quickly, impulsively even. A few days later I retype the whole thing and my subconscious, as I retype, gives me new words. Maybe it’ll take retyping it many times until it is done. Sometimes it takes very little revision. – The Paris Review Interview, 2010

109. No, never. You can’t do that [plotting outlines]. It’s just like you can’t plot tomorrow or next year or ten years from now. When you plot books you take all the energy and vitality out. There’s no blood. You have to live it from day to day and let your characters do things. – The Paris Review Interview, 2010

Quotes on Ray Bradbury’s Influences

110. My favorite writers have been those who’ve said things well. I used to study Eudora Welty. She has the remarkable ability to give you atmosphere, character, and motion in a single line. In one line! You must study these things to be a good writer. – The Paris Review Interview, 2010

111. Sometimes I’d get an old copy of Wolfe and cut out paragraphs and paste them in my story, because I couldn’t do it, you see. I was so frustrated! And then I’d retype whole sections of other people’s novels just to see how it felt coming out. Learn their rhythm. – The Paris Review Interview, 2010

112. Comic strips are pure metaphor, so you learn how to tell a story with symbols, which is a very valuable thing to learn. And I learned that from motion pictures, too, and from poetry. Poetry is mainly metaphor. If it doesn’t have a metaphor, it doesn’t work. – Public Libraries Interview, 2013

113. I want you to fall in love with movies, old movies. – An Evening with Ray Bradbury, 2001

114. When I was seventeen I read everything by Robert Heinlein and Arthur Clarke, and the early writings of Theodore Sturgeon and Van Vogt. – The Paris Review Interview, 2010

Quotes on Criticism and Critics

115. The critics are generally wrong, or they’re fifteen, twenty years late. It’s a great shame. They miss out on a lot. Why the fiction of ideas should be so neglected is beyond me. I can’t explain it, except in terms of intellectual snobbery. – The Paris Review Interview, 2010

116. I don’t tell anyone how to write and no one tells me. – The Paris Review Interview, 2010

117. Others have criticized, and they have criticized themselves, into embarrassment.  –Zen in the Art of Writing, 1990

Quotes on Getting a Support System

118. Who are your friends? Do they believe in you? Or do they stunt your growth with ridicule and disbelief? If the latter, you haven’t friends. Go find some. –Zen in the Art of Writing, 1990

119. We all need someone higher, wiser, older to tell us we’re not crazy after all, that what we’re doing is all right. –Zen in the Art of Writing, 1990

120. Get rid of those friends of yours who make fun of you and don’t believe in you. – An Evening with Ray Bradbury, 2001

Quotes on Books

121. You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them – The Seattle Times, 1993

122. A book is a loaded gun in the house next door…Who knows who might be the target of the well-read man? –  Fahrenheit 451, 1953

123. The books are to remind us what asses and fools we are. –  Fahrenheit 451, 1953

124. Books were only one type of receptacle where we stored a lot of things we were afraid we might forget. There is nothing magical in them, at all. The magic is only in what books say, how they stitched the patches of the universe together into one garment for us. –  Fahrenheit 451, 1953

Bonus Quote

125. Everyone must leave something behind when he dies, my grandfather said. A child or a book or a painting or a house or a wall built or a pair of shoes made. Or a garden planted. Something your hand touched some way so your soul has somewhere to go when you die, and when people look at that tree or that flower you planted, you’re there. –  Fahrenheit 451, 1953

Further Reading

If you loved the quotes by Ray Bradbury, check out the huge collection of writing quotes below. The collection features the best quotes by some of the most famous writers such as Neil Gaiman, R.L Stine, Stephen King, and Margaret Atwood among many more.

The quotes are full of valuable advice for any aspiring writer.

If you are struggling to create a business around your writing and need some encouragement, read the quotes below.

  • Sources Cited for Ray Bradbury’s Quotes

An Evening with Ray Bradbury (2001) “Telling the Truth,” the keynote address of The Sixth Annual Writer’s Symposium, Point Loma Nazarene University.

Fahrenheit 451 (1953) Fahrenheit 451 [see on Amazon]

NPR Interview (2012) Ray Bradbury: ‘It’s Lack That Gives Us Inspiration’

Playboy Interview (1996) Ray Bradbury: The Playboy Interview

Public Libraries Interview (2013) I Graduated from the Library: An Interview with Ray Bradbury

Steppenwolf Interview An Interview with Ray Bradbury

Time.com Interview (2010) Q&A: Ray Bradbury

The Paris Review Interview (2010) Ray Bradbury, The Art of Fiction No. 203

The Seattle Times (1993) Bradbury Still Believes In Heat Of `Fahrenheit 451′

Zen in the Art of Writing (1990)Zen in the Art of Writing: Releasing the Creative Genius Within You [see on Amazon]