In which an unexpected judicious edit leads to conquering the fear of the wonderful

zen edit

There is something scary about discovering the miracles that abide inside us. We are “fearfully and wonderfully made,” and – having been made in the image of our Creator – we are capable of crafting fearfully-and-wonderfully-made things.

In a burst of creative madness, I wrote Chapter One of a marvelous story more than a year ago.

It was good, which scared the sh*t out of me, obviously, because I let it lay dormant for more than a year. At the time, I shared the chapter to be sure it was good, and sure enough, people whose opinions I respected said, “This is good. I would like to see what happens next.” What happened next is I let it lay.

Then the other morning, as I am wont to do, I was re-reading Ray Bradbury.

To be precise, I was re-reading “Drunk, and in Charge of a Bicycle,” one of the wonderful essays that comprise Zen in the Art of Writing, one of a small handful of books that I consider essential to #Creativity, to put it in contemporary terms.

That led me to the rediscovery that the essay was originally the introduction to The Stories of Ray Bradbury, which I pulled off the shelf and perused, which led me to the new discovery that an anecdote had been edited out.

These words, part of a sequence where Bradbury explains the genesis of a half-dozen or so short stories in the collection, do not appear in Zen:

“Skeleton” happened because I went to my doctor when I was twenty-two, complaining that my neck, my throat, felt strange. I touched all around the tendons and muscles of my neck. The doctor did likewise, and said, “You know what you’re suffering from?”


“A bad case,” he said, “of discovery of the larynx. We all discover, at one time or another, various tendons, various bones in our bodies we never noticed before. That’s you. Take an aspirin and go home.”

I went home, feeling my elbows, my ankles, my ribs, my throat, and my medulla oblongata.

“Skeleton,” a contest between a man and his hidden bones, wrote itself that night.

For whatever reason, that part of the essay did not make the transition into my copy of Zen.

Why? It’s a cute little story and a fascinating insight into the creative process – how a personal experience became a memorable tale about a man who is frightened by skeletons and terrified by the realization he’s carrying one around all the time.

When it was time to repurpose the essay into a book subtitled, “Releasing the Creative Genius Within You,” perhaps Bradbury or his editor didn’t see the analogy – that just like our scary bones, we one day discover that we’re carrying our creative genius inside all the time and the idea terrifies us.

Or it was left out by accident in one of those editorial oopsies that can happen. Or it was The Muse at play, knowing that one day I would discover the omission and turn it into this observation.

Essential to the creation of the memorable story was recognizing the terrifying idea and, having conquered the fear, writing about it and transforming it into a memorable story.

I have begun work on Chapter Two.