The Writer as a Cup

cupCame across this quote while reading the latest Readers Digest. Thanks to my wife for insisting on the subscription.

“From now on I hope always to educate myself as best I can. But lacking this, in future I will relaxedly turn back to my secret mind to see what it has observed when I thought I was sitting this one out. We never sit anything out. We are cups, constantly and quietly being filled. The trick is knowing how to tip ourselves over and let the beautiful stuff out.” –Ray Bradbury

Sad that Ray’s passed. He’s done so much for writing, so much for literature. We’re lucky he’s left gems like this behind—not just from his writing, but from his musings on the subject.

The idea of writer as cup is fairly simple—we’ve an entire world, millennia of research and knowledge and wisdom, with which to fill ourselves. And, even if we choose not to actively pour these riches into our brains, they will force themselves into us. The point is this: whether you believe it or not, your cup is full.

Being a writer consists of the ability to learn to tip ourselves over, as Bradbury said. How do we take that knowledge, wisdom, beauty, love, oppression, revenge, betrayal, and pour it onto the page? I think there’s a few ways to do it effectively:

1. Be proactive in your filling: If you’re passive, your mind will be filled with more meaningless stuff than you can enumerate. Instead, choose what you want your mind to be filled with. That is, read. Experience life. Don’t be content to “get through” life, but instead, as Thoreau said, “live life deliberately.” Find the beauty, the passion, inherent in every moment of every day. Record it in your mind. Save it, so that later,  you can pour it out with all its flavor intact.

2. Make “pouring” a habit: Writing is not the only way in which you can “pour” life’s experiences out. Be deliberate in your speech with your friends, in your high school essays, your conversations with coworkers and bosses, your work reports. Take pictures. Write a poem. Draw a picture. Make a sculpture. Film a movie. Write a song. The more you pour, the better you’ll be at it.

Life is out there. Enjoy it.

Until next week, good writing.


14 thoughts on “The Writer as a Cup”

  • Excellent analogy and good, practical writing advice. I know that some of my writing prep involves walking the dog or cycling up and down our county’s many hills. Like Bradbury suggests, we are never working on empty. Those walks and rides just help me to see how full I am. Thanks for the post.

  • I realized recently that I’m usually doing a great job of filling myself, but I rarely take time where all the streams are cut off and I just think. That time is surprisingly productive.

  • It takes a great deal of effort for some people to “empty” themselves. I often find that if I take some time just to think, I can go back and see mistakes that I have made because I was so stressed.

  • So many people out there never take the time to pour it all out. Instead, they just sit there like rocks and grow moss. That’s not only just boring–it’s unhealthy for the individual as all those little thoughts and emotions start to build up.
    Write well, write often.

  • I feel that I never “pour” out enough, leaving details and experiences out of my writing to, not only enrich the story, but to enrich my own life. On another note, thinking of the passing of Ray Bradbury makes my eyes water, as he is my favorite writer. My favorite of his is “There Will Come Soft Rains”.

  • I feel that a lot of people never “pour” anything out that they are feeling and they are just bottling it up. It’s not good for anyone to hold such important things in, you should be able to let it out and you will feel much better after. This quote by Ray Bradbury really inspires me to open up to people and let them know how I feel, and also to live you life with nor regrets and have the best time you can ever have.

  • I make an extreme amount of mistakes it is almost sad. But if i calm down and re read i am usually able to find them and fix them. This is what i get for pouring it all out, i think faster than i can write.

  • I’m a cup splashing randomly, never really coming together cohesively. I should write more songs, poems, or even keep a journal. I have all of these ideas and knowledge that barely get poured out.

    Ray Bradbury was a great author. He did a fantastic job “pouring” his philosophies and ideas into his work.

  • When i write i want to “pour” all these things out, but i just dont know how to piece them together or make it work without being so dragged out.

  • In every story i have ever written i tend to “pour” way to much, My cup overflows. In a way i bite off more then i can chew with my pouring. But after reading this i will work on rationing my “pouring” skills.<3

  • This blog seriously just made my whole day! It reminded me to enjoy and ecperience every minute of life and be “deliberate.” I like that alot. It’s important to experience life in full, and it’s a beautiful thing to be able to express my life through creativity. Sometimes I forget about simple things life that. Thanks for this post.

  • honestly what you wrote and Ray Bradburys quote i think i will commit to memory cause it not only goes with writing but your right it goes with everything anyone would do in their normal day.

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