A Quote by Ray Bradbury

“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.”

This is taken from the Paris Review Interviews, a great source of inspiration and wealth of knowledge from writers. You can view the full interview here The Art of Fiction No. 203

What do you think about learning to write in college?

Samir

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26 Comments to “A Quote by Ray Bradbury”

  1. I read the short story ‘The Smile’ as a tribute to Ray Bradbury today and found some really interesting quotes and facts other people have shared in response, but this is the quote I chose to share:

    “Love. Fall in love and stay in love. Write only what you love, and love what you write. The key word is love. You have to get up in the morning and write something you love, something to live for.”

    - Ray Bradbury

  2. I’ve never found writing classes helpful. There are certain things every writer or wannabe writer needs to learn, but classes didn’t seem to be the best way to get there.

    I remember taking a class in which a certain student carried herself rather like a mouse – the type of person who didn’t leave much of an impression. But one poem she wrote was absolutely stunning. And I watched the feedback she got – and even her grade in the class. They were not based on her work, but on how she carried herself as a person. Basically, a group of mediocre writers rather harshly criticized her when her work was head and shoulders about theirs. And no one seemed to notice. I vowed that day never to take another writing class.

    • How awful! I think sometimes these kinds of classes or informal groups just get caught up in the critique process and forget that it needs to be constructive and helpful… and that it’s actually ok to say ‘that was a really good piece’. Thanks for sharing the memory ;-)

  3. I’d agree for most part. I think College gives you a platform, equips you with required skills but ultimately it’s individual creativity that stands out.

  4. This is a tricky question, Samir. The best thing to come out of my university experience is a greater awareness for deadlines. When I had an assignment due, I forced myself to write even when I felt like watching cat videos on Youtube. I still think writing itself cannot be taught, only honed, but having a professor breathing down your neck when you have something due does wonders for establishing the rhythm of writing, which is an essential tool for anyone serious about the craft.

    • Ah yes, deadlines… I know what you mean. It’s incredible what pressure can do to the writing muse ;-)
      I must say that I’m in complete agreement here, creative writers or professors can only help you hone your writing – beautifully said.

  5. I have been thinking about taking some units in writing. I did medicine, quite essential to go to university for that, but art is subjective. I shall read the article :)

  6. I studied Finance in college. I had some English classes that helped me learn how to write essays. But learning to write a novel? Not sure that’s the place for it. I think writing may be one of the best professions suited for the “learn by doing” methodology. :)

    • I studied Mathematical Sciences… Now I’m studying English and purposefully chose Literature electives rather than creative writing. I find it’s also ‘learn by doing’ and for personal reasons, I like it that way. Understanding the nuances of language help me more than reading about how to write (again, it’s personal).

  7. So many thoughts. Some writers need teachers, others are autodidacts–like Bradbury. Some learn more by reading, some by writing, most by a combination of the two. All criticism should be carefully weighed, no matter the source. Anytime an “authority” proclaims a rule, a writer should consider if exceptions to the rule make sense. We are human. Each must find his/her own way.

  8. I think that learning from other writers and lovers of language, whether it’s in college or not, is probably necessary. Writers need to know the ins and outs of words, and that doesn’t always come naturally. But style and voice–I don’t think you need college for that.

    Thanks for linking to that interview, Samir. It was great, and I especially loved the whole story about Mr. Electrico. :)

  9. This article is AMAZING from start to finish!

  10. Yes and no. Professors can’t teach you how to find your own voice, but young inexperienced writers need guidance as far as refining their technical skills. Poor execution completely overshadows a brilliant insight. In addition, writers need to be struck down every now and then. Failure helps breed character and it makes us strive for something better, to prove “them” wrong.

    • I agree with what can be gained by from studying writing in college but I do respectfully disagree with the necessity of being ‘struck down’ because failure is beneficial.

      I believe in a process of positive criticism where you may be honest and blunt but also objective with the aim of only improving the work. I don’t believe personal prejudices should influence decisions nor do I believe that a feeling of failure helps to improve (this is only the case for some people) which can marginalise people into different groups unnecessarily. A good teacher or professor should be open minded to take into consideration the students needs and thoughts as well. We are all learning from each other in this journey of life, yet there are those who adopt the attitude of ‘survival of the fittest’.

      Todd, no offense intended of course. I just have a different take on it.

      • No offense taken! In fact, your take is actually an accurate elaboration by what I meant by “struck down.” Instructors [or any critics, for that matter] need to go about offering constructive criticism in a constructive way, otherwise it can be an abuse of authority. I’ve experienced the latter and it can be very damaging to one’s self-perception. “Failure” doesn’t always imply being struck down viciously; it can also be a realization that what I perceived to be wonderful actually wasn’t the greatest creation of all time or that my job performance wasn’t up to a certain standard. Falling short of perfection offers incentive to continue striving and pressing forward.
        Great discussion, Samir!

        • I think I understand your points more clearly now. I can’t imagine how awful it must have been to be on the receiving end of abusive power!

          I agree that a ‘reality check’ is a necessity from time to time, whether positive or negative, as long as it is justified appropriately.

  11. This is a great quote, Samir! And the question you pose is a bit difficult to answer – experiences (formal education included) are mainly what we make of them. My writing skills vastly improved in college – however, it also became more and more Academic in tone. So now I am working, with some help (and though having just graduated I have retained the friendship of many wonderful professors who have been amazing) to adopt a more informal, accessible style of writing. So, with regards to this quote by the great Ray Bradbury (and I can’t help but think of Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall”) this can be very true about teachers – but not the GOOD ones, and there are many fabulous teachers out there – one just has to seek them out! As an aside ~ I’m curious if Bradbury was speaking about regular schooling or higher education…

    • It’s an interesting observation and quote. I think that’s the biggest problem with writing in college, the formality of the language. Then again, creative writing is a subject on its own and although I’ve not done it in college, I’m sure there are skills and insights to be gained or refined, particularly when a student is a beginner.

      Well Bradbury was referring to higher schooling although the irony is that he’s self-educated. After high school he continued studying by reading a lot in the library. He didn’t want to go to college and study what others thought was necessary to teach… I have to say, I do respect that. Naturally though, that was a different era (albeit only 70 years or so).

  12. I think college professors can help you refine your writing skills. My writing would not be what it is now without their influence.

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