Read One Poem, One Short Story and One Essay Every Day
You are supposed to do the Ray Bradbury Challenge for 1,000 days, but I decided to write this blog after thirty days so others can discover this sure-fire way to boost their creativity.
I first read about the Ray Bradbury Challenge in this blog which was filled with inspiring Bradbury quotes. It reminded me how much I had loved Bradbury’s short stories when I was younger. My favorite one was “A Sound of Thunder.”
Although he is probably best known as the author of the high school required classic, Fahrenheit 451 (1952), Bradbury was a prolific writer. His science fiction and fantasy stories captured the fears and dreams of Midcentury America. He wrote over thirty books and six hundred short stories. In addition, he also wrote T.V. scripts, screen plays and stage plays.
The Ray Bradbury Challenge
I also discovered similar advice in “How to Keep and Feed a Muse” an essay in Zen and the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury–a book that all aspiring writers should read. Bradbury gives you permission to write from your heart. Instead of chasing money, you will approach writing with zest and gusto.
Read A Poem a Day
I have always loved poetry, even as a child. As an English teacher, I would pull examples from many sources. Reading aloud, I would strive to capture the emotion and nuance of the poems. I emphasized that poetry isn’t about rhyming and it isn’t something you have to struggle “to get.”
The right poem will speak to you and you will understand it in your own heart. One of the greatest compliments I’ve ever received was when a former high school English student of mine came up to me in Barnes & Noble, where he worked:
For the Ray Bradbury Challenge, I first revisited my old favorites from my teaching days: Maya Angelou, Langston Hughes and Edgar Allan Poe. Then I read Devotions by Mary Oliver, a compilation of her swoon-worthy poetry. I followed that with samplings from Fierce Fairytales: Poems and Stories to Stir Your Soul by modern poet Nikita Gill.
Then I made an excellent discovery–the Ten Poems series by Roger Hudson. The format of Ten Poems to Change Your Life was a poem by an established poet, followed by an essay reflecting on the meaning and connecting it to other poetry.
Both intensely personal and philosophical, the book was like having that magical English teacher lead you by the hand into the fairy kingdom of poetry. Hudson has at least ten poetry book collections and these are an excellent resource, especially for those intimidated by poetry. His nonfiction essays on learning how to surrender are wonderful as well.
The Effect of Reading a Poem a Day
Bradbury was right, poetry embeds metaphors into your subconscious. I found myself thinking metaphorically about problems in my life and things I saw on the news. It changed my perspective and made things seem less urgent.
Through metaphors, and the poems I was reading, I could see my problems as part of the natural flow of life and today’s news as part of the long flow of history. I thought about how during the Midcentury people were terrified of nuclear war and realized our current terror, although about different fears, is similar.
The language of poetry seeped into my head and even my texts became more descriptive and entertaining. My daughter stopped me one night and said, “Wow, you said that so poetically.”
I love it when someone gives me a copy of a poem. It feels like a gift. An authentic gift from someone who sees past the surface persona that we all present, and tries to connect with the deeper me. Reading a poem a day for the Ray Bradbury Challenge felt like a gift that I gave myself. This has become a daily practice that I will continue.
Read A Short Story a Day
I am not a huge fan of short stories, and I struggled initially with this requirement. Then I solved my problem by reading collections of myths. I read Scottish Myths and Legends, by Daniel Allison, and Teller of Hawaiian Tales, by Eric Knudsen.
I already love those type of stories and am active on Twitter: #MythologyMonday #FairytaleTuesday #WyrdWednesday #FolktaleThursday. Whenever I read a tweet about a story, I would look up the tale on the internet to read in its entirety. I discovered the wonderful Inuit story, “The Skeleton Woman,” this way. I’m @Kimberly__Us on Twitter
However, once I started reading Ray Bradbury’s short stories I began to look forward to this daily requirement. I loved “The Veldt” and “Something Wicked This Way Comes.” Bradbury is a master at creating tension. “The Veldt” sent shivers through me as I could see that he accurately predicted the future and the dehumanizing impact entertainment technology would have on our children.
Effects of Reading a Short Story a Day
Reading Ray Bradbury’s short stories will definitely improve my own writing. Zen and the Art of Writing is full of examples of his writing process and tricks of the craft. I read his book of essays alongside his short stories. He had such a cinematic style of writing and created perfect tension. I know that my own scribbles will benefit from his examples.
I journaled my reading selections and my reflections during the challenge. This is what I observed:
Ray Bradbury recommends writing a short story a day to polish your writer’s craft so I decided to incorporate his advice. Reading the myths inspired me to write stories for my blog. I wrote “Vixen: A Short Shapeshifting Story” which was a modern romance, inspired by the Kitsune fox shapeshifter stories of Japan. “Can You See the Woman in the Moon?” was a retelling of a Hawaiian folktale.
Read an Essay a Day
I expanded this requirement to encompass reading nonfiction every day. This was the easiest thing for me to do because I mostly read nonfiction. Science, business, parenting, teaching, writing, history and Stoic philosophy fill my overflowing bookshelves and Kindle. I also tend to open up and read every Atlantic, New Yorker or Smithsonian article recommended on Twitter.
As a science teacher, I always try to stay abreast of current events. Reading nonfiction was already a daily habit. The science of COVID-19 has been a terrific teaching opportunity. I am currently enrolled in a genetics Seminars in Science with the American Museum of Natural History. This part of the Ray Bradbury Challenge was something I was already doing.
Effect of Reading Nonfiction Every Day
My approach to life has been to wonder about a subject and then go on a reading binge about it. The gift of my blog is that now I can turn my research into an article. During this thirty day challenge, my passions were Ray Bradbury, oysters, Rockabilly Music, and Midcentury architecture.
Do the Ray Bradbury Challenge and Feed Your Muse
Like me, you may already be an avid reader, but you probably don’t feed your Muse a balanced diet of poetry, short stories and nonfiction. Round out your diet using the discipline of the Ray Bradbury Challenge. Keep a journal recording what you read each day and a reflection on how it is changing you.