Zest and Gusto

Ray Bradbury book (photo by Wendy Kennar)

I recently finished reading Ray Bradbury’s collection of essays titled Zen in the Art of Writing.  Mr. Bradbury states that writers need two things — “zest” and “gusto.”

“… if I were asked to name the most important items in a writer’s make-up, the things that shape his material and rush him along the road to where he wants to go, I could only warn him to look to his zest, see to his gusto.”

If you are writing without zest, without gusto, without love, without fun, you are only half a writer.”

Mr. Bradbury’s words got me thinking about my own levels of zest and gusto.  Back in the day, I think I had a lot of zest and gusto.  I’ve had adventures — I’ve gone parasailing and taken a sunset hot air balloon ride.  I drove myself around San Francisco, exploring and seeing the sites, by myself, and in the days before there were Smartphones to help me navigate.  I used to take myself to Santa Monica for the day (via the bus), to wander around the Promenade just because I wanted to.  I often had limited finances and limited transportation options, but I went out and did things.  I had zest.  I had gusto.

Now I wonder if I still do.  And the fact that I wonder is perhaps a sign that I don’t have as much zest and gusto as I once had.  In all fairness, it became much more challenging to continue some of my adventuresome activities once I became a parent.  Two years after that milestone, I was stricken with my autoimmune disease.  And I’ll be honest, it’s difficult to feel zest and gusto while I’m feeling pain.

It’s easy to be self-critical, to come down hard on myself for the things I no longer do, to accuse myself of not living with zest and gusto.

But that’s not right.  Because I look at my family, and I marvel at my eight-year-old son, and I know I’m loving with zest and gusto.  And I look at my own writing, and I know that I’m putting my heart out on the page, and that certainly qualifies as zest and gusto.

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