Bradbury attributed to two incidents his lifelong habit of writing every day. The first of these, occurring when he was three years old, was his mother's taking him to see Lon Chaney's performance in The Hunchback of Notre Dame. The second incident occurred in 1932, when a carnival entertainer, one Mr. Electrico, touched the young man on the nose with an electrified sword, made his hair stand on end, and shouted, "Live forever!" Bradbury remarked, "I felt that something strange and wonderful had happened to me because of my encounter with Mr. Electrico...[he] gave me a future...I began to write, full-time. I have written every single day of my life since that day 69 years ago." It was at that age that Bradbury first started to do magic, which was his first great love. If he had not discovered writing, he would have become a magician.
Bradbury claimed a wide variety of influences, and described discussions he might have with his favorite poets and writers Robert Frost, William Shakespeare, John Steinbeck, Aldous Huxley, and Thomas Wolfe. From Steinbeck, he said he learned "how to write objectively and yet insert all of the insights without too much extra comment." He studied Eudora Welty for her "remarkable ability to give you atmosphere, character, and motion in a single line." Bradbury's favorite writers growing up included Katherine Anne Porter, who wrote about the American South, Edith Wharton, and Jessamyn West.
Bradbury was once described as a "Midwest surrealist" and is often labeled a science fiction writer, which he described as "the art of the possible." Bradbury resisted that categorization, however:
First of all, I don't write science fiction. I've only done one science fiction book and that's Fahrenheit 451, based on reality. It was named so to represent the temperature at which paper ignites. Science fiction is a depiction of the real. Fantasy is a depiction of the unreal. So Martian Chronicles is not science fiction, it's fantasy. It couldn't happen, you see? That's the reason it's going to be around a long time – because it's a Greek myth, and myths have staying power.
Bradbury recounted when he came into his own as a writer, the afternoon he wrote a short story about his first encounter with death. When he was a boy, he met a young girl at the beach and she went out into the water and never came back. Years later, as he wrote about it, tears flowed from him. He recognized he had taken the leap from emulating the many writers he admired to connecting with his voice as a writer.
When later asked about the lyrical power of his prose, Bradbury replied, "From reading so much poetry every day of my life. My favorite writers have been those who’ve said things well." He is quoted, "If you're reluctant to weep, you won't live a full and complete life."
In high school, Ray Bradbury was active in both the Poetry Club and the Drama club, continuing plans to become an actor but becoming serious about his writing as his high school years progressed. Bradbury graduated from Los Angeles High School, where he took poetry classes with Snow Longley Housh, and short story writing courses taught by Jeannet Johnson. The teachers recognized his talent and furthered his interest in writing, but he did not attend college. Instead, he sold newspapers at the corner of South Norton Avenue and Olympic Boulevard. In regard to his education, Bradbury said:
Libraries raised me. I don't believe in colleges and universities. I believe in libraries because most students don't have any money. When I graduated from high school, it was during the Depression and we had no money. I couldn't go to college, so I went to the library three days a week for 10 years.
He told The Paris Review, "You can't learn to write in college. It's a very bad place for writers because the teachers always think they know more than you do – and they don’t."
A reinvention of Waukegan, Green Town is a symbol of safety and home, which is often juxtaposed as a contrasting backdrop to tales of fantasy or menace. It serves as the setting of his sem-autobiographical classics Dandelion Wine, Something Wicked This Way Comes, and Farewell Summer as well as in many of his short stories. In Green Town, Bradbury's favorite uncle sprouts wings, traveling carnivals conceal supernatural powers, and his grandparents provide room and board to Charles Dickens. Perhaps the most definitive usage of the pseudonym for his hometown, in Summer Morning, Summer Night, a collection of short stories and vignettes exclusively about Green Town, Bradbury returns to the signature locale as a look back at the rapidly disappearing small-town world of the American heartland, which was the foundation of his roots.