In the wake of the viral-marketing blitz that will safely secure Ray Bradbury into the hall of the immortals (I mean, what a stroke of genius!), I’ve decided to come out of the dark of my own basement to reflect…
What I noticed in reading some of the articles on Bradbury’s life is that he was an indefatigable basement geek extraordinaire. That’s something to aspire to really, as far as many of us are concerned.
Just to recap on a hyper-productive life
The Martian Chronicles was published in 1950 and Fahrenheit 451 in 1953. By this time, though, he had already had a number of publications starting with the short story, Hollerbochen’s Dilemma, in 1938!
But it’s how Bradbury wrote Fahrenheit 451 in 1950 that caught my eye. This is already the stuff of legend, and I’m a little late to the game, I know. Anyway…
Bradbury wrote Fahrenheit 451 on a rental typewriter in the basement of UCLA’s Lawrence Clark Powell Library, where he had taken refuge from a small house filled with the distractions of two young children. Read more here…
Not only this, but he claimed to have written it in nine days! …
… typewriters that rented for 10 cents a half hour. He said he carried a sack full of dimes and completed the book in nine days, at a cost of $9.80. Read more here…
How many hours is that? Hang on … ninety-eight hours?!
The claim didn’t go uncontested though:
Although some academics doubted that account, saying he could not have created such a masterpiece in such a rapid, seemingly cavalier fashion, Bradbury maintained in several interviews with the AP over the years that that was exactly how he did it. Read more here…
Ballantine editor Stanley Kauffman, later the longtime film critic for The New Republic magazine, flew out to Los Angeles to go over the manuscript with Bradbury, plying the sweet-toothed perfectionist author with copious doses of ice cream. Read more here…
Love ice cream! How long that took, I still don’t know … I just know editing is where a lot of the hard work and long hours can be found.
Anyway, a testament to his indefatigability and his basement orientation right up until the end is the following:
In 1999 he suffered a stroke yet continued to write other novels, screenplays, stage plays and poetry in his basement home office. Read more here…
He apparently went down into his basement daily, year in, year out. Why not the kitchen bench or the balcony? I can understand that: the basement has that isolated focus you just can’t get in a normal room with a window that also may not need a light on during the day, lol!
We have to admit, daily practices are one thing, but daily practices in the basement are altogether more geeky and hard-core.
So what do we have? 1950 to 2012. That’s a long time to be a basement geek! Damn! You can’t be a productive basement geek for that long without disrupting the future. I mean, we know that much, right?
He had to have some days off during all of that. But we’re not going to hold that against him!
What can we get out of his long-standing basement geekiness, etc?
Perspective for a start. It wasn’t until he released The Martian Chronicles in 1950 that his career as an author really started to take off. Meanwhile, he’d been writing copiously for years prior. Also, 1950 is a long time ago for most of us … forget 1938 and earlier!
So what do we have? A lot of years before The Martian Chronicles and three more years before Fahrenheit 451 was released. Remember: three years has a lot of months in it. Sound like a long time already? Sound familiar? Maybe not for some new authors…
Time-distorting, perspective reduction pathologies in modern publishing
Life on the web can easily disorient our perspective and take the focus away from the long-term: i.e., the need to generate an amplified position over a period of many years through persistent hard work and smart work; instead, many seek chart-topping success du jour, which makes them feel good until their book(s) start(s) to slide and they wonder why? Du jour, my fiend! Du Jour!
The only thing that can reduce the tumult and the emotional roller coaster of short-term success is persistence over the long term and an ever-extending, ever-amplifying programme; you have to develop a programme that lasts for years and that acts cumulatively.
Yeah, but how?
The web is a great place for cumulative amplification over the long-term
Web development is a good example. How many people are envisaging or planning for where their web presence will be in 2020 and beyond?
Obviously, many will think that you can’t predict it, so why bother, right? But there are plenty of things that you can do today and this month and this year and next year that will make your presence more sophisticated and put you in a better position to take advantage of developments as they emerge down the track.
I mean, how do you think that people become beta users and early adopters? There are some lucky ones, but most are there because they have done the R&D and have strategically put themselves in the position to have access to new developments early. Being a beta user is very early indeed!
If you can set up R&D and productivity programmes, then you know that in X number of years there are going to be dividends paid … one way or another, willingly or kicking and screaming, lol!
You simply can’t publish 200 – 400K quality-in-quantity words on the Internet for 4 years running without being noticed, without getting a huge amount of targeted traffic.
What about ten or fifteen years or more? What about 50 or more? I mean, come on… Some of us may not think we have fifty years left, but if the longevity treatments that are ‘just around the corner’ do half of what we hope they will, more of us might just make the distance, lol!
In any case, the future is there to be disrupted. And our best hope is to develop our way out of our condition unrelentingly and over the long-term.
And we have the masters like Ray Bradbury to inspire us!