A Writer’s Hygiene – 1,000 Nights of Short Stories, Poetry, and Essays

I seem to be a glutton for challenges these days. Inspired by Ray Bradbury’s short story advice, I’m two-and-a-half weeks into one of his other (paraphrased) suggestions:

Every day, for the next 1,000 days, read one short story, one poem, and one essay.

That’s just a small part of this amazing speech he gave in 2001. Spend some time watching and listening to it. You won’t be disappointed.

The whole idea is to fill the workshop of the mind with so many different doodads, gadgets, and raw material that you can’t help but be inspired to come up with syncretic ideas and news ways of looking at the same old things.

At 39 years old, this is the first time in my life that I’ve ever seriously looked at poetry. Talk about regrets. Maybe it’s because I’m starting with Robert Frost, but my God man, it’s just beautiful stuff and so rewarding to puzzle out.

I’m reading amazing short stories by Elmore Leonard, Robert Howard, Richard Matheson, as well as contemporary stories in every genre. For barely the price of a nice dinner, I picked up four giant anthologies containing classic mysteries, tales of horror, the works of Edgar Allen Poe, and Nathaniel Hawthorne.

I’m reading long-form articles from National Geographic, Mother Jones, Reason, and Military History Quarterly. Once I’ve gone through the issues in my stock, I picked up a used copy of Francis Bacon’s essays to start on next.

It may be the magical combination of this hygiene program and trying to write a story every week, but I’ve never been so full of ideas. It’s not always easy to work them out into a cohesive narrative. I’m convinced this system has made doing so easier, though.

Ray’s suggestion may not be for everyone, but I can’t see that it hurts. Even if you start slow and do it every other day, you’re bound to have a wealth of material to consciously and subconsciously pull from.

Fill your cup, I say.

-Phillip

7 thoughts on “A Writer’s Hygiene – 1,000 Nights of Short Stories, Poetry, and Essays”

  1. Full steam I say. By the time I wade through 202 emails, write my blog, answer all comments, read others blogs and comment, do scripts for three radio shows, work on my WIP, EDIT, Format, and Social Media, I have a precious half hour before bed. I read Indie books at that time.

    1. Wow, you certainly have a full cup already John. It sounds like you have your ducks in a row and are focused on what’s most important to your success right now.

  2. I’ve had much the same experience. A few years ago I started getting up early and carving out serious time to read. At the same time I made a concerted effort to read things I felt resistant to, or wouldn’t normally read. The end result is that I am brimming over with creative ideas all the time now!

    1. That’s fantastic, Lauren! I’ve been doing the same thing with setting aside time to read. I’m finding it a must if I want to be productive with my writing.

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