Home > Posts > Tackling The Ray Bradbury Reading Challenge

By Mike Grindle | December 26th, 2022

We're getting close to that time of year when people start to think about setting resolutions, habits, and goals. Gym memberships and sells of trainers will soon be on the rise. So too will the number of people taking up new reading or book "challenges".

Now, reading challenges can be hit or miss. They might inspire you, or they might turn reading into a chore. Nonetheless, a few months ago, I came across something which caught my interest: The Ray Bradbury reading challenge.

What is the Ray Bradbury Reading Challenge?

Ray Bradbury was a prolific American writer best known for his novel Fahrenheit 451. Over his lifetime, he wrote around thirty books and a whopping six hundred short stories. Needless to say, the guy knew a thing or two about getting words down on a page.

Bradbury believed that quantity is a necessary prerequisite to quantity and he suggested that new writers should aim to produce one new short story every week. The idea is that by the year's end, the writer would have 52 short stories to their name. And surely at least one of these would be half-decent, right?

But Bradbury also felt that for writers to produce such a quantity of work, they also needed to fill their heads with as much "stuff" as possible. And in a keynote address in 2001, he set out a way for them to do just that.

He suggested that every night, for 1000 nights, a writer should read the following before they sleep:

"Every night, before you go to bed, you’re stuffing your head with one short story, one poem, and one essay. By the end of a thousand nights, Jesus God, you’ll be full of stuff! You’ll be full of ideas and metaphors along with your perceptions of life and your own personal experiences, which you’ve put away, and what you see in your friends and your relatives. And the more metaphors you can cram yourself with, they’ll bounce around inside your head and make new metaphors. That’s why you’re doing this". - Ray Bradbury

A New Year's Resolution?

Now, a thousand nights is a big commitment. Personally, I think a month or even a week is a better goal to start with. And after that, a year would be a decent milestone to aim for. I would also consider expanding the essay requirement to cover any work of quality nonfiction.

In any case, this challenge intrigues me. And I think it's a more 'balanced' challenge than others I've seen because you're getting a nice mix of reading (a varied diet to "feed the muse," if you will). So, I'm thinking I'm going to give this a go sometime in the new year, probably for a month. And because public humiliation is a fantastic motivator, I will report back on my success/failure here.

For now, though, hope everyone is having a great holidays and new year.